Perspective: Food-Based Dietary Guidelines in Europe-Scientific Concepts, Current Status, and Perspectives

Adv Nutr. 2018 Sep 1;9(5):544-560. doi: 10.1093/advances/nmy033.


Food-based dietary guidelines (FBDGs) are important tools for nutrition policies and public health. FBDGs provide guidelines on healthy food consumption and are based on scientific evidence. In the past, disease prevention and nutrient recommendations dominated the process of establishing FBDGs. However, scientific advances and social developments such as changing lifestyles, interest in personalized health, and concerns about sustainability require a reorientation of the creation of FBDGs to include a wider range of aspects of dietary behavior. The present review evaluates current European FBDGs with regard to the concepts and aspects used in their derivation, and summarizes the major aspects currently discussed to be considered in future establishment or updates of FBDGs. We identified English information on official European FBDGs through an Internet search (FAO, PubMed, Google) and analyzed the aspects used for their derivation. Furthermore, we searched literature databases (PubMed, Google Scholar) for conceptional considerations dealing with FBDGs. A total of 34 out of 53 European countries were identified as having official FBDGs, and for 15 of these, documents with information on the scientific basis could be identified and described. Subsequently, aspects underlying the derivation of current FBDGs and aspects considered in the literature as important for future FBDGs were discussed. Eight aspects were identified: diet-health relations, nutrient supply, energy supply, dietary habits, sustainability, food-borne contaminants, target group segmentation, and individualization. The first 4 have already been widely applied in existing FBDGs; the others have almost never been taken into account. It remains a future challenge to (re)conceptionalize the development of FBDGs, to operationalize the aspects to be incorporated in their derivation, and to convert concepts into systematic approaches. The current review may assist national expert groups and clarifies the options for future development of local FBDGs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet, Healthy / standards*
  • Europe
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Food / standards*
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Policy*