Assessing the impact of dietary health interventions for driving long-term positive changes in diet and nutrition in Scotland
Rising consumer demand for foods high in energy, salt, sugar, fat, and animal protein exacerbates the prevalence of diet-related diseases, which can translate into bigger economic burdens for the health services and the food and drink sector through lost production. Furthermore, there is strong evidence that unhealthy eating plays a key role in driving health inequalities between people living in advantaged and disadvantaged circumstances. Although diet quality in Scotland has improved over recent decades, it still falls well short of international and national guidelines.
Growing evidence suggests that multiple and complex factors beyond personal decisions strongly influence dietary choices and patterns. Individual dietary habits are determined by personal preference, age, gender, culture, education, income, health status, and nutritional awareness. Wider commercial pressures, including food packaging, marketing, advertising, and sociocultural perceptions of norms, status, and prestige, further affect consumer choice. With thoughtful evidence-informed policy, leveraging these factors provides an opportunity for governments to support improvements in diets, wellbeing, and equity.
With rising diet-related diseases globally, including in Scotland, policies such as taxation, subsidies, regulation, food reformulation and labelling are heavily favoured to help align food choices with health and wellbeing. Several dietary interventions, such as fiscal measures, nutrition education, nutritional labelling, advertising control, and social marketing, have been implemented with mixed effectiveness.
In Scotland, evidence of the impact of dietary interventions on food and drink purchases and diet quality remains scarce. More evidence is needed to assess the impact of selected dietary interventions on Scottish consumers’ food and drink purchases, energy intake, and diet quality, while controlling for possible unintended consequences and the diversity of consumers’ choices and purchases.
- What behaviour change interventions can influence consumers to make long-term changes with respect to their diet and food safety and that reduce or minimise health inequalities?
This project is evaluating the impact of dietary health interventions (fiscal measures, nutrition education, nutritional labelling, advertising control, and social marketing) for improving Scotland’s diet and nutrition and investigating whether and how their impact varies over time and across demographic groups.
Impact of dietary interventions on diet quality and wellbeing
We are analysing the evidence on the impact of dietary interventions on diet quality and wellbeing, and the methods used to assess the impact. This involves a literature review where we are identifying key dietary interventions, and their evaluation methods, to persuade consumers in the UK and elsewhere to improve their diet and will summarise their strengths, limitations, risks, and opportunities.
Analysing long-term trends in food and drink purchases
We are evaluating consumer dietary and healthy behaviours by analysing their demand for fruit and drink over time. First, we are creating specific econometric datasets for various analyses. These datasets are used to develop a demand model and to calculate price and income elasticities to explain and predict consumer food and drink purchasing behaviour for the average Scottish household and segmented across demographics (e.g., gender, age, deprivation) over time.
Assessing the impact of dietary interventions
We are selecting interventions relevant to Scotland’s context and analysing their impact on Scottish consumers’ food purchases, calorie intake, and diet quality using time- series and cross-sectional data. We are measuring Scottish consumers’ food and drink purchases and their determining factors and evaluating their trends over time and across demographic groups. We are providing new insights into Scottish consumers’ food and drink purchase patterns and their drivers.
Using market and experimental data, we are performing in-depth analyses to simulate the positive and negative impact of implementing selected dietary interventions on consumer food and drink purchasing behaviour, total calories purchased, and indices of diet quality. This is focusing on measuring the impact of the selected interventions on indices of diet quality, health, inequality, and consumer willingness to pay. We are also evaluating the potential unintended consequences of implementing dietary interventions. Further, we are investigating contextual and individual factors such as retail environment, marketing tools, socio-economic status, gender, age, education, and income, which may impact the effectiveness of dietary interventions. This new evidence and these insights are informing recommendations for dietary interventions likely to improve diet, nutrition, and health equity in Scotland.
Overall, this project contributes to the knowledge of the effectiveness of dietary interventions by assessing the impact of implementing dietary interventions on consumers’ food purchases and the nutritional content of their diet.
This work aims to understand the relationship between Scottish consumption of domestic food and drink products versus imported products; and whether purchases of a particular provenance are due to prices or other reasons. Furthermore there is a need to understand the relationship between Scottish exports and domestic demand for those exported products and to what extent the goals of the...
- Food Supply & Security