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Veröffentlichungen • The Germans’ diet – from single factors to a complex model

I. Hoffmann, I. Brunn, B. Cwik, E. Mertens1

Institute of Nutrition Science, Giessen University, Germany

Vortrag auf 27th AGEV meeting, Karlsruhe 2005


“The Germans eat too fatty, too salty, too sweet, too much.” Statements like this are often based on nutrition surveys comparing intake data on single food constituents to recommendations or correlating them with blood concentrations of nutrients or risk factors. However, studying single aspects or a combination of few aspects of such a complex theme like the Germans’ diet may lead to formally and scientifically correct conclusions but still provide a very restricted and biased view of reality.
National consumption studies are designed to depict a nation’s nutrition and to provide a base for decision makers and other professionals to implement changes of dietary habits and to solve nutrition-related problems. Both objectives necessitate taking into account the multitude of interrelated aspects of nutrition influencing each other. Neglecting the interrelatedness and multilayerness in the process of problem-solving may result in further disturbances caused by side-effects and in multiplying the original issue - even when interventions had been planned carefully. This means that the data of national consumption studies should be used to capture diet as a whole instead of solely its parts. This allows to deduct new and promising problem-solving approaches.

Nutrition ecology is a rather new research area which may be applied to consider the multilayerness and interrelatedness of nutrition and nutrition-related problems. In the concept of nutrition ecology nutrition is considered as a complex system encompassing the dimensions health, environment, society and economy.

The additional insights that may be gained by depicting the Germans’ diet as a complex model instead of considering single factors will be demonstrated by presenting the result of a course within the Bachelor program for nutrition (“Special aspects of nutrition ecology”) at the Institute of Nutrition Science at the Giessen University.

1Further contributors: Grötsch, N., Heidenbluth, K., Heller, R., Lamberts, V., Michels, I., Ndia Nimpa, J., Schreiber, N., Stang, K., Wittig, F., Schneider K., Meng B. (participants and supervisers of the course “Special aspects of nutrition ecology”)

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