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OBJECTIVE: To test whether diets achieving recommendations from the UK's Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) were associated with higher monetary costs in a nationally representative sample of UK adults. DESIGN: A cross-sectional study linking 4 d diet diaries in the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) to contemporaneous food price data from a market research firm. The monetary cost of diets was assessed in relation to whether or not they met eight food- and nutrient-based recommendations from SACN. Regression models adjusted for potential confounding factors. The primary outcome measure was individual dietary cost per day and per 2000 kcal (8368 kJ). SETTING: UK. SUBJECTS: Adults (n 2045) sampled between 2008 and 2012 in the NDNS. RESULTS: On an isoenergetic basis, diets that met the recommendations for fruit and vegetables, oily fish, non-milk extrinsic sugars, fat, saturated fat and salt were estimated to be between 3 and 17 % more expensive. Diets meeting the recommendation for red and processed meats were 4 % less expensive, while meeting the recommendation for fibre was cost-neutral. Meeting multiple targets was also associated with higher costs; on average, diets meeting six or more SACN recommendations were estimated to be 29 % more costly than isoenergetic diets that met no recommendations. CONCLUSIONS: Food costs may be a population-level barrier limiting the adoption of dietary recommendations in the UK. Future research should focus on identifying systems- and individual-level strategies to enable consumers achieve dietary recommendations without increasing food costs. Such strategies may improve the uptake of healthy eating in the population.

Original publication




Journal article


Public Health Nutr

Publication Date





948 - 956


Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, Dietary guidance, Dietary intake, Food prices, National Diet and Nutrition Survey, Nutritional surveillance, Scientific Advisory Committee for Nutrition, Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Diet, Feeding Behavior, Female, Health Behavior, Health Expenditures, Healthy Diet, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Nutrition Surveys, Recommended Dietary Allowances, United Kingdom, Young Adult