Nutrition Research

We undertake research to understand why people make certain food choices and whether there is progress being made towards improving diet and nutrition in Scotland.

Food Standards Scotland is responsible for monitoring the Scottish diet against the Scottish Dietary Goals, in addition to commissioning research to support dietary policy requirements.

Folic Acid Modelling

Stochastic modelling to estimate the potential impact of fortification of flour with folic acid in the UK. This research has modelled the potential impact of fortification of flour with folic acid on the prevention of Neural Tube Defects (NTDs).


Dietary modelling was carried out to find out the most effective way of adding folic acid to flour for the purpose of reducing Neural Tube Defects (NTDs) such as Spina Bifida in the unborn child. The modelling used current dietary information to explore the effect of different options for adding folic acid to flour while taking account of folic acid from fortified foods such as breakfast cereals and fat spreads, and from dietary supplements.

The modelling identified a number of beneficial fortification scenarios which would:

  • reduce NTDs
  • ensure no decrease in current average folate intakes
  • ensure no increase in numbers of people consuming too much folic acid

Depending on the scenarios modelled, the risk of NTDs could be reduced by between 8 and 25 % with no increase in the numbers of people consuming too much folic acid. See link to FSS Board paper on folic acid discussed on 16th August 2017.

Our most recent work on monitoring progress towards the Scottish Dietary Goals

Food Standards Scotland monitors progress towards the Scottish Dietary Goals using data from the Living Costs and Food Survey. This work is part of a rolling programme to update annual trends in food consumption and nutrient intakes.

The most recent interim report provides results upto 2015, however these results are provisional and will not be finalised until a full update is published in 2018.

Previous publications include:

Estimation of Food and Nutrient intakes from food purchase data in Scotland 2001 to 2012

Contribution of foods to intakes of energy and selected nutrients using food purchase data in Scotland 2001 to 2012

Other published research

Food Standards Scotland commissioned the University of Stirling to conduct a review to provide an assessment of the current evidence base on retailing. The project aimed to provide FSS with an overview of how food and drink retailing currently works in Scotland and identify factors that could enable healthier purchasing by consumers.

An overview of the out of home market in Scotland: This report published in October 2016 provides evidence on the out of home food and drink market in Scotland, including an assessment of how this environment has changed since 2012, as well as foods and drinks most frequently consumed and motivations when eating out.

An Offical Statistics Publication for Scotland - National Diet and Nutrition Survey: Assesment of dietary sodium (Adults 19 to 64 years) in Scotland 2014: As part of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey rolling programme, adults aged 19 to 64 years in Scotland took part in the survey by providing a 24-hour urine collection. The adults were selected to be representative of the population and the analysis was based on 663 samples. Urine samples were collected over five months (May to September) in 2014, running concurrently with a survey in England.

Foods and drinks purchased into the home in Scotland, using data from Kantar WorldPanel: This report published on 20th January 2016 provides evidence on purchasing trends and price promotions between 2010 and 2015, including seasonal differences, with a particular focus on discretionary foods and drinks, such as cakes, pastries, biscuits, confectionery, crisps and sugary drinks.

The Situation Report: The Scottish Diet: It needs to change published in December 2015, summarises existing dietary data and health statistics for Scotland using info-graphics to provide information for policy makers, and stakeholders including the food and drink industry, health professionals and consumers. The report highlights the scale of the challenge and the need for dietary intakes to change if Scotland is to become a more healthy and successful nation.

A survey published in November 2015 on Attitudes to Diet and Health in Scotland 2015 complements our on-going dietary monitoring and surveillance work by providing contextual information on consumer understanding of a healthy diet, and why it is difficult to change.

INTAKE24 is an online 24hr dietary tool developed by Newcastle University and commissioned by Food Standards Scotland. The report presents methodological findings from a field test conducted between June and August 2015 which assessed the feasibility of using INTAKE24 to measure dietary intake in the Scottish Population.


You can search or browse all of our published nutrition research.

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Our advice covers everything from getting the right amount of healthy food and cutting down on fat, salt and sugar to hydration and staying active.

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Healthy Eating

Eating healthily helps us stay at the right weight and lowers the risk of diet-related illness.

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