Nutrition assessment
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Photography credits:©FAO/Photographer' Luigi Spaventa & Riccardo Gangale

The role of FAO in promoting food-based approach to improve human nutrition is increasingly recognized around the world. Food production is theoretically sufficient to feed the world’s population. However, about one billion people are undernourished while approximately two billion suffer from micronutrient deficiencies. On the other hand, 1.2 billion adults and children are overweight and half a billion are obese. In this context, a food-based approach will be one of the key solutions to the dilemma. Food-based approaches aim to provide a more holistic approach to tackle today’s malnutrition problems and focus on food quality and diversity. They therefore require information on food composition, dietary assessment and nutrient requirements.

Up-to-date and precise information on food intakes, dietary patterns and nutritional status is required by countries for the formulation of effective nutrition policies and implementation of interventional programmes. The use of standardized dietary assessment indicators is important to enable multi-country comparisons of nutritional indicators as well as to monitor nutritional status over time. FAO promotes the use of simple food-based indicators which can be incorporated into the population-based dietary assessment tools to evaluate food intakes and  the quality of diets , Food-based indicators are also associated with adequacy of dietary intakes. Measurement of household food security complement traditional assessment of dietary intakes by providing additional information to the changes or adaptation of food habits and dietary intakes in families in response to food insecurity. 

Furthermore, FAO publishes Nutrition Country Profiles which provide a comprehensive review of the food and nutrition situation in developing countries.

Assessment of nutritional status at individual level is also important to gain a more comprehensive picture on the state of food and nutrition security. FAO works with other UN agencies, namely UNICEF, WFP and WHO to bring together indicators of individual nutritional status with dietary indicators as part of comprehensive food and nutrition security assessments to integrate indicators of nutritional status of individuals into dietary assessment. This has facilitated national, regional and global efforts in the analysis of food and nutrition security.