Diet: Recommendations should above all be evidence-based

Diet: Recommendations should above all be evidence-based

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DGE demands scientifically proven nutritional recommendations

There is currently a great deal of uncertainty when it comes to nutrition, not least because new study results are constantly being presented that at first glance contradict previous findings. However, reliable nutritional recommendations should not be based on individual publications, "but should be based on a systematic process of reviewing, selecting and evaluating scientific studies," emphasizes the German Nutrition Society (DGE).

There is great uncertainty among consumers when it comes to nutrition. This can also be attributed to the fact that the results of individual studies are often presented in the media as “new findings” in nutritional research, and thus valid nutritional recommendations are prematurely questioned. At a journalist seminar in December, experts from the DGE made it clear why nutritional recommendations should not be based on individual publications, but on a systematic evaluation process of scientific studies.

Scientific data as the basis of the recommendations

"The basis for nutritional recommendations should always be the sum of the available scientific knowledge, i.e. the scientific data (evidence)," emphasizes Professor Dr. Jakob Linseisen, President of the DGE. Therefore, a continuous and current overview of the studies on the influence of nutritional factors on health is crucial. In addition, standardized methods for finding and evaluating evidence are required.

Recommendations with long validity

"To derive recommendations, we need scientific studies with the highest possible level of evidence," says Professor Linseisen. It is only on this basis that guidelines and scientific opinions can be drawn up that will remain valid for a long time. In recent years, the DGE has successfully implemented such guidelines on many topics, such as for carbohydrates and fats.

There are also few deviations internationally

Contrary to the widespread perception that dietary recommendations are constantly changing, many of the scientifically sound recommendations remain stable over long periods, according to the DGE. The consistency and uniformity of nutritional recommendations also result from international comparisons. These make it clear that international recommendations are often very similar to those of the DGE.

How much salt is allowed?

When it comes to salt consumption, for example, the DGE specifies a table salt intake of up to six grams per day as an orientation value. The internationally recommended intake quantities are also between five and six grams per day, reports the DGE. In addition, studies have shown that both extremely low and very high salt intake can have a negative impact on health.

On average, table salt consumption in Germany is far too high. According to the DEGS adult survey, women ingest an average of 8.4 grams per day and men ten grams per day, reports the DGE. This should be assessed critically, in particular for people with increased blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, overweight and kidney diseases.

Dietary fiber is important

By contrast, the average consumption in Germany of fiber is clearly too low, although it is precisely these that can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and colon cancer. "According to the NVS II, the recommended 30 grams of fiber per day in Germany neither reach men with a median intake of 19 grams / day nor women with 18 grams / day," according to the DGE.

Low carb also has disadvantages

Here, for example, there is also a negative effect of special diets (e.g. low-carb diets) in which only little carbohydrates are consumed, explains the DGE. Because the absence of carbohydrates results in a reduced intake of nutritionally valuable whole grain products and thus fiber.

The suffering with the sugar

According to the DGE, there is also considerable uncertainty when it comes to sugar. Refined ("white") sugar is often replaced by supposedly healthier sugar alternatives such as agave syrup, honey or maple syrup. However, this has no benefit for health. "These sugar alternatives have no health benefits compared to refined sugar because they are metabolized in the same way," said Professor Dr. Hans Hauner from the TU Munich.

High sugar intake is critical

The experts are less concerned about the type of sugar sources than the worldwide increase in sugar intake. "A high sugar intake, especially through sugar-sweetened drinks, is associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes mellitus, obesity, cardiovascular diseases and dental caries," warns the DGE.

Halve sugar consumption

According to the DGE recommendation, a maximum of ten percent of the total amount of energy should be free sugar, i.e. about 50 grams per day. However, the Germans would have to cut their sugar consumption in half on average. Free sugars include monosaccharides and disaccharides that are added to the food, but also naturally occurring sugars in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates, explains the DGE.

Promote healthy behavior

The biggest problem in terms of nutrition and health remains the strong increase in obesity and obesity with accompanying diseases such as type 2 diabetes mellitus, according to the DGE. In order to counteract this development, prevention must above all support health-promoting behavior in the future. (fp)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters


  • German Society for Nutrition (DGE): DGE emphasizes the importance of scientifically sound nutritional recommendations (published January 30th, 2020),

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