Food and nutrition are an important part of our lifestyle. In conjunction with smoking and overweight/obesity, dietary habits are responsible for the majority of health loss and socio-economic health differences in the Netherlands. A major improvement in public health could be achieved by developing healthier dietary habits and a healthier body weight. Healthier dietary habits decrease the risk of premature death, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
In a healthy diet, we do not eat too much nor too little, and we eat mostly vegetable products and fewer animal products. A healthy meal is rich in vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, fish, wholemeal products, contains sufficient low-fat dairy products, and is low in red meat and processed meat products, alcoholic beverages and sugary drinks, salt, and saturated fats (Health Council of the Netherlands: Dutch Dietary Guidelines 2015; the Netherlands Nutrition Centre: Wheel of Five).
RIVM investigates what people eat and which nutrients they consume.
What do people in the Netherlands eat?
RIVM regularly collects data about the overall food consumption of the entire Dutch population and of individual population groups, the so-called National Food Consumption Survey (Voedselconsumptiepeiling (Dutch) or VCP). Based on this study, RIVM is investigating the extent to which people in the Netherlands eat according to the dietary guidelines and dietary reference values, and what differences there are in subgroups within society. This study uses a statistical program SPADE, developed by RIVM.
The results of the latest survey are published on www.wateetnederland.nl (in Dutch).
RIVM is also investigating the relationship between food consumption and health, using data from the Doetinchem cohort study and elsewhere. In addition, RIVM is exploring options to make food products and food consumption even healthier. This applies to measures aimed at behaviour (knowledge, skills, etc.) and at the surrounding context (product composition, availability, price, etc.). RIVM operates at a national and international level in this context.
Study on Nutritional Status
The most accurate way to determine the intake of salt, iodine and potassium is by measuring excretion in urine over a 24-hour period. In its Study on Nutritional Status of Dutch Adults, RIVM monitors the intake of salt, iodine and potassium using 24-hour urine analysis, in collaboration with the Doetinchem Cohort Study.
International networks and activities
RIVM is involved in multiple research projects, such as the Horizon2020 PROMISS project and SEAFOODTOMORROW. PROMISS aims to better understand and prevent malnutrition in older people, thus promoting active and healthy ageing. SEAFOODTOMORROW works on creating nutritious, safe and sustainable seafood for the consumers of tomorrow. More international projects on food and nutrition, in which RIVM is involved, can be found in our international project database.
WHO Collaborating Centre on Nutrition
Since 2008, RIVM's Department of Nutrition and Health has been a designated WHO Collaborating Centre (CC) for Nutrition. The department supports the work of the World Health Organization (WHO) on health and sustainable diets and the prevention of chronic diseases. This is done through research and scientific publications, development of methodologies and manuals, training, participating as experts in WHO meetings and providing expert advice to WHO and Member States. Read more about this WHO CC.
RIVM participates in a variety of food and nutrition expert networks. In the area of healthy nutrition and reformulation, these include, among others, networks of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Sustainable Development Goals
RIVM's activities in the field of healthy nutrition contribute to SDG2 Zero hunger and SDG3 Good health and well-being.
Advice on improvements
RIVM carries out a number of investigations. It advises municipalities, schools and childcare facilities on their approach to healthy foods. It also advises the Dutch Government on ways to make Dutch people healthier. That way, the government can take measures like making healthy food products more appealing or giving information.