Can adherence to dietary guidelines address excess caloric intake? An empirical assessment for the UK
The facilitation of healthier dietary choices by consumers is a key element of government strategies to combat the rising incidence of obesity in developed and developing countries. Public health campaigns to promote healthier eating often target compliance with recommended dietary guidelines for consumption of individual nutrients such as fats and added sugars. This paper examines the association between improved compliance with dietary guidelines for individual nutrients and excess calorie intake, the most proximate determinant of obesity risk. We apply quantile regressions and counterfactual decompositions to cross-sectional data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (2000–01) to assess how excess calorie consumption patterns in the UK are likely to change with improved compliance with dietary guidelines. We find that the effects of compliance vary significantly across different quantiles of calorie consumption. Our results show that compliance with dietary guidelines for individual nutrients, even if successfully achieved, is likely to be associated with only modest shifts in excess calorie consumption patterns. Consequently, public health campaigns that target compliance with dietary guidelines for specific nutrients in isolation are unlikely to have a significant effect on the obesity risk faced by the population.
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