Consuming a sensible, balanced diet can help us to achieve optimal health throughout life. NHMRC has guidelines for healthy eating based on the best available scientific evidence including the Australian Dietary Guidelines, Infant Feeding Guidelines (2012) and Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand Including the Recommended Dietary Intakes (2006).
The NHMRC invested approximately $336 million into nutrition related research from 2002 to 2012.
Eating a balanced diet is vital for good health and wellbeing. Food provides our bodies with the energy, protein, essential fats, vitamins and minerals to live, grow and function properly. We need a wide variety of different foods to provide the right amounts of nutrients for good health. Enjoyment of a healthy diet can also be one of the great cultural pleasures of life. The foods and dietary patterns that promote good nutrition are outlined in the Infant Feeding Guidelines and Australian Dietary Guidelines. An unhealthy diet increases the risk of many diet-related diseases.
The major causes of death, illness and disability in which diet and nutrition play an important role include coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, atherosclerosis, obesity, some forms of cancer, Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, dental caries, gall bladder disease, dementia and nutritional anaemias. The Infant Feeding Guidelines and Australian Dietary Guidelines assist us to eat a healthy diet and help minimise our risk of developing diet-related diseases.
Infant Feeding Guidelines
The Infant Feeding Guidelines provide health workers with the latest information on healthy feeding from birth to approximately 2 years of age. This includes advice on breastfeeding, preparing infant formula, and introducing solid foods. Common health related concerns and how to overcome feeding difficulties are included.
The Infant Feeding Guidelines are relevant to healthy, term infants of normal birth weight (>2500g).
Australian Dietary Guidelines
The Australian Dietary Guidelines use the best available scientific evidence to provide information on the types and amounts of foods, food groups and dietary patterns that aim to promote health and wellbeing, reduce the risk of diet-related conditions and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
The Australian Dietary Guidelines are for use by health professionals, policy makers, educators, food manufacturers, food retailers and researchers and encourage healthy dietary patterns to promote and maintain the nutrition-related health and wellbeing of the Australian population
The content of the Australian Dietary Guidelines applies to all healthy Australians, as well as those with common diet-related risk factors such as being overweight. They do not apply to people who need special dietary advice for a medical condition, nor to the frail elderly.
A website on the Eat for Health Program is at www.eatforhealth.gov.au.
- Australian Dietary Guidelines (2013)
- A modelling system to inform the revision of the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (2011)
- A review of the evidence to address targeted questions to inform the revision of the Australian Dietary Guidelines
- Review: Nutritional requirements and dietary advice targeted for pregnant and breastfeeding women (2011)
Discretionary Foods and Drinks Review
NHMRC has recently been engaged through the Australian Government Department of Health to conduct a review of the current evidence on the understanding and use of the term ‘discretionary foods and drinks’.
Dietary patterns characterised by excess dietary saturated fat, sodium, added sugars and alcohol are associated with increased health risk. This work will review the evidence on the way in which unhealthy (discretionary) foods and drinks are classified and explained in key government and non-government nutrition resources, including NHMRC’s 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADGs).
Through the guidance of an expert working committee, this work will consider the practicality of providing specific definitions of discretionary foods and drinks. NHMRC will use this guidance to consider a more standardised approach to identifying discretionary foods and drinks across all settings, including community, industry, consumer and healthcare environments.
As part of the review, the NHMRC will be consulting with key users, including health professionals, government and industry representatives to ensure the outcomes are relevant for promoting the health of Australians across all settings.
Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand Including the Recommended Dietary Intakes
The Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand Including the Recommended Dietary Intakes (NRVs 2006) outline the intake levels of essential nutrients considered adequate to meet the nutritional needs of healthy people for prevention of nutrient deficiencies. The document is intended for use by health professionals to assess the likelihood of inadequate intake in individuals or groups of people.
A website on the Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand Including the Recommended Dietary Intakes (2006) is at www.nrv.gov.au.
The NRVs will be reviewed in an ongoing manner as resources allow. NHMRC approved the revised NRV recommendations for fluoride on 21 November 2016 and sodium on 13 July 2017 under Section 14A of the National Health and Medical Research Council Act 1992. These were published in March 2017 and September 2017 respectively. Further information is available on the NRV website.
NHMRC is currently reviewing the evidence and updating the remaining fluoride and sodium NRVs not reviewed in 2016 and 2017, all iodine NRVs and all Adequate Intake NRVs for infants. These reviews will be undertaken using a phased approach over three years:
- Phase One: sodium NRVs not included in the 2017 review and iodine NRVs (commenced in 2018)
- Phase Two: fluoride NRVs not included in the 2016 review and all Adequate Intakes for infants (commencing in 2019).
The reviews will be overseen by a Steering Group Advisory Committee. Nutrient specific working groups have also been engaged to advise on the review of each nutrient.