Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Symposium on ‘Micronutrient interactions and public health’

Effecting dietary change

Ashley J. Adamsona1 c1 and John C. Mathersa1

a1 Human Nutrition Research Centre, School of Clinical Medical Sciences, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Newcastle,Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 4LP, UK


A world epidemic of diet-related chronic disease is currently being faced. In the UK incidence of obesity alone has tripled in the last 20 years and this trend is predicted to continue. Consensus exists for the urgent need for a change in diet and other lifestyle factors and for the direction and targets for this change. The evidence for how this change can be achieved is less certain. It has been established that disease processes begin in childhood. Recent evidence indicates that dietary habits too are established in childhood but that these habits are amenable to change. While establishing a healthy lifestyle in childhood is paramount, interventions have the potential to promote positive change throughout the life course. Success in reversing current trends in diet-related disease will depend on commitment from legislators, health professionals, industry and individuals, and this collaboration must seek to address not only the food choices of the individual but also the environment that influences such choices. Recent public health policy development in England, if fully supported and implemented, is a positive move towards this goal. Evidence for effective strategies to promote dietary change at the individual level is emerging and three reviews of this evidence are discussed. In addition, three recent dietary intervention studies, in three different settings and with different methods and aims, are presented to illustrate methods of effecting dietary change. Further work is required on what factors influence the eating behaviour and physical activity of individuals. There is a need for further theory-based research on which to develop more effective strategies to enable individuals to adopt healthier lifestyles.


c1 *Corresponding author: Dr Ashley Adamson, fax +44 191 222 5276, email