Journal Article

Adherence to EAT-Lancet dietary recommendations for health and sustainability in the Gambia

Facilitating dietary change is pivotal to improving population health, increasing food system resilience, and minimizing adverse impacts on the environment, but assessment of the current ‘status-quo’ and identification of bottlenecks for improvement has been lacking to date. We assessed deviation of the Gambian diet from the EAT-Lancet guidelines for healthy and sustainable diets and identified leverage points to improve nutritional and planetary health. We analysed the 2015/16 Gambian Integrated Household Survey dataset comprising food consumption data from 12 713 households. Consumption of different food groups was compared against the EAT-Lancet reference diet targets to assess deviation from the guidelines. We computed a ‘sustainable and
healthy diet index (SHDI)’ based on deviation of different food groups from the EAT-Lancet recommendations and modelled the socio-economic and geographic determinants of households that achieved higher scores on this index, using multivariable mixed effects regression. The average Gambian diet had very low adherence to EAT-Lancet recommendations. The diet was dominated
by refined grains and added sugars which exceeded the recommendations. SHDI scores for nutritionally important food groups such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, dairy, poultry, and beef and lamb were low. Household characteristics associated with higher SHDI scores included: being a female-headed household, having a relatively small household size, having a schooled head of the
household, having a high wealth index, and residing in an urban settlement. Furthermore, diets reported in the dry season and households with high crop production diversity showed increased adherence to the targets. While average Gambian diets include lower amounts of food groups with harmful environmental footprint, they are also inadequate in healthy food groups and are high in sugar. There are opportunities to improve diets without increasing their environmental footprint by focusing on the substitution of refined grains by wholegrains, reducing sugar and increasing fruit and vegetables consumption.