Evaluation of foods, drinks and diets in the Netherlands according to the degree of processing for nutritional quality, environmental impact and food costs

Reina E. Vellinga*, Marieke van Bakel, Sander Biesbroek, Ido B. Toxopeus, Elias de Valk, Anne Hollander, Pieter van ’t Veer, Elisabeth H.M. Temme

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Objective: This study investigates nutritional quality, environmental impact and costs of foods and drinks and their consumption in daily diets according to the degree of processing across the Dutch population. Design: The NOVA classification was used to classify the degree of processing (ultra-processed foods (UPF) and ultra-processed drinks (UPD)). Food consumption data were derived from the Dutch National Food Consumption Survey 2012–2016. Indicators assessed were nutritional quality (saturated fatty acids (SFA), sodium, mono and disaccharides (sugar), fibre and protein), environmental impact (greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and blue water use) and food costs. Setting: The Netherlands. Participants: Four thousand three hundred thirteen Dutch participants aged 1 to 79 years. Results: Per 100 g, UPF were more energy-dense and less healthy than unprocessed or minimally processed foods (MPF); UPF were associated with higher GHG emissions and lower blue water use, and were cheaper. The energy and sugar content of UPD were similar to those of unprocessed or minimally processed drinks (MPD); associated with similar GHG emissions but blue water use was less, and they were also more expensive. In the average Dutch diet, per 2000 kcal, ultra-processed foods and drinks (UPFD) covered 29% (456 g UPF and 437 g UPD) of daily consumption and 61% of energy intake. UPFD consumption was higher among children than adults, especially for UPD. UPFD consumption determined 45% of GHG emissions, 23% of blue water use and 39% of expenses for daily food consumption. UPFD consumption contributed 54% to 72% to daily sodium, sugar and SFA intake. Conclusions: Compared with unprocessed or minimally processed foods and drinks, UPF and UPD were found to be less healthy considering their high energy, SFA, sugar and sodium content. However, UPF were associated higher GHG emissions and with less blue water use and food costs. Therefore daily blue water use and food costs might increase if UPF are replaced by those unprocessed or minimally processed. As nutritional quality, environmental impacts and food costs relate differently to the NOVA classification, the classification is not directly applicable to identify win–win-wins of nutritional quality, environmental impact and costs of diets.

Original languageEnglish
Article number877
JournalBMC Public Health
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2022

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