Assessing national nutrition security

Jennie Macdiarmid, Heather Clark, Stephen Whybrow, Henri De Ruiter, Geraldine McNeill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nutrition security describes the adequacy of the food supply to meet not only energy but also macronutrient and micronutrient requirements for the population. The aim of this study was to develop a method to assess trends in national nutrition security and the contribution of imports to nutrition security, using the UK as a case study. Food supply data from FAO food balance sheets and national food composition tables were used to estimate the nutrient content of domestically produced food, imported food and exported food. Nutrition security was defined as the total nutrient supply (domestic production, minus exports, plus imports) to meet population-level nutrient requirements. The results showed that the UK was nutrition secure over the period 1961–2011 for energy, macronutrients and key micronutrients, with the exception of total carbohydrates and fibre, which may be due to the loss of fibre incurred by processing cereals into refined products. The supply of protein exceeded population requirements and could be met with domestic production alone. Even excluding all meat there was sufficient protein for population requirements. The supply of total fat, saturated fat and sugar considerably exceeded the current dietary recommendation. As regards nutrition security in 2010, the UK was reliant on imported foods to meet energy, fibre, total carbohydrate, iron, zinc and vitamin A requirements. This analysis demonstrates the importance of including nutrients other than energy to determine the adequacy of the food supply. The methodology also provides an alternative perspective on food security and self-sufficiency by assessing the dependency on imports to meet population level nutritional requirements.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2018


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessing national nutrition security'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this