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An Ecological Approach to Nutrition Assessment

Published February 19, 2024

When we think of nutrition assessment, we usually think about collecting a history of what is consumed (diet history). However, nutritional status is impacted by more than just what we eat, including underlying disease, stress, health equity, access to food and health care, as well as environmental factors like pollution.

A nutrition intervention that is based on diet history alone may not accomplish the goal of improving health, preventing or managing disease, or reversing diet-related health conditions. An ecological approach to nutrition assessment takes into consideration external and internal factors, in addition to diet history, to guide nutrition interventions that better target the cause of the problem.

The authors of a new article argue that a comprehensive nutrition assessment should go beyond just counting calories and nutrients to truly harness the power of nutrition intervention. They suggest considering internal factors such as genetics and disease, as well as external factors such as access to nutritious food, environmental conditions and exposure to toxins.

After all, nutrition status can only be accurately assessed when it is considered within the context of an individual or population's overall health, environment and nutrition security. Assessment of environmental conditions can help inform effective interventions. The proposed "ecological approach" to nutrition assessment involves evaluating consumption data, access to nutrient-rich foods, overall health, genetics, specific diseases and external stressors such as climate issues or war. This holistic approach can enhance the precision of nutritional assessment and better address the diverse challenges of malnutrition worldwide.

Read the full article, published in Nutrients.

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