| Food Composition Data: A User's Perspective (1987) |
|The uses of food composition data|
|Using food composition data to communicate nutrition to the consumer|
The relationship of diet and health is a foremost concern of the public. Consumers want to know what to eat to assure nutritional adequacy, health, and well-being. Nutritionists are continually re-evaluating information on food composition, nutrient requirements, food practices, and the relationships between diet, health, and disease as a basis for developing educational programmes for the public.
All of this information (human nutrient requirements, food consumption practices, diet, health, and disease relationships, as well as nutritional guidance) must be underpinned by quality food consumption data. The amount and specificity of nutrient information communicated varies with different audiences, their level of sophistication and whether we are targeting the general population, groups at risk, or specific groups of interest such as students, hospitalized patients, athletes, or individuals. However, the data needed by professionals to support food guidance research and development are fairly specific.
For foods that comprise the majority of calories consumed by the population, extensive nutrient composition data are necessary. It is no longer adequate to have data concerning only the traditional nutrients, i.e. water, kilocalories, protein, total fat, carbohydrate, calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin A, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and ascorbic acid. Increasingly, the food industry, educators, and consumers need information for such nutrients as magnesium, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, pantothenic acid, total vitamin B6, folacin, and vitamin B12, as well as for specific fatty acids, cholesterol, specific amino acids, carotenoids, and dietary fibre. Many of these components represent emerging interests, and for this reason the demand for reliable data exceeds availability.
Recognizing the potential of computer technology to help meet these data needs, as well as the analytical needs of nutrition educators, Utah State University and the Human Nutrition Information Center, US Department of Agriculture (USDA) developed NUTREDFO, the Nutrition Education Information System , designed for use by professionals as a tool for nutrition guidance research and development of nutrition guidance information.