N° 65 | March 2012

Evaluation of food consumption and dietary patterns in Spain by the Food Consumption Survey: updated information

The “new” Spain

Spain has undergone dramatic social changes since the 1960s, including massive rural-urban migration. A generalised incorporation of females into the active work-force added to rapid urbanisation processes that occurred in the 1980s. A rapidly increasing number of people use catering services, restaurants and vending machines - all key factors in understanding changes in diet.

The tools for the diagnosis

The Food Consumption Survey (FCS), conducted in Spain since 1987, shows trends in consumption of different food groups and provides data on the place of consumption, i.e. either at home, in institutions, catering, or restaurants. The Spanish Nutrition Foundation (FEN) is at present in charge of evaluating the dietary trends and nutritional status of the population derived from the FCS. This information is also essential in order to obtain information on the nutritional parameters that allow the identification of dietary patterns.

The scenario at present

Milk and derivatives consumption is quantitatively one of the most important in the present Spanish diet. However, a significant decrease was observed between the years 2000 and 2010. Eggs consumption has steadily decreased since the year 2000. Vegetable and greens consumption, including potatoes, remained largely unchanged in the last ten years. This was not the case when comparing the results with those obtained in 1964, when the consumption was clearly higher. However, consumption of vegetables and greens (without potatoes) showed an increase of more than 50 g/person/day since 1964. A steady decrease in potatoes consumption for the last forty years has been observed (over 200g/person/day). Fruit consumption, including dried fruits, showed an increasing trend from year 2000 and, when compared to 1964 data, fruit consumption has nearly doubled. Cereals and derivatives consumption has shown a marked decrease over the last 40 years (434 g/d in 1964 vs. 218 g/d in 2010). Bread was still the most important food within this group. For oils and fats consumption an overall decrease over the last 40 years has been observed (approximately 20 g/person/day since 1964). The decrease is more noticeable for olive oil (a fall of over 25 g/person/day). However, more than 90% of the total consumption of oils and fats are still of vegetable origin, mainly olive which represented roughly 60% of the total. As for the meats group, the most consumed type was chicken. The present consumption of this food group has increased by roughly 300% when compared to the 1964 data. The mean consumption of fish and shellfish was considered high but beneficial (100 g/person/d). Oily fish represents approximately 40% of total fish. Alcoholic beverage consumption has undergone a slow decline during recent years. Within this group, wine, a beverage traditionally included in the Mediterranean diet, represented 25.5% of total alcoholic beverage consumption in the year 2010, in contrast to 62% of the total in 1991. In the last few years, a gradual substitution of wine with beer has occurred. For nonalcoholic drinks, an almost ten-fold increase is observed since 1964. Another food group of current importance, for which a marked rise in consumption was noticed, was precooked foods or ready meals.

Energy and Nutrient Intake

The mean energy consumption for the Spanish adult population is at present 2,761 kcal/person/d, which is clearly lower than in 1964 (3,008 kcal/person/d). It is remarkable that the mean intake pattern of micronutrients shows that vitamin C intake exceeds the reference intakes by more than 200%. Other vitamins and minerals that present a much higher consumption are vitamin B12, iodine and phosphorus. In contrast, nutrients which did not reach 80% of the recommendations include zinc and folic acid in both sexes, and iron in women only. Other nutrients with a potentially insufficient intake include vitamins D, B6 and magnesium.

In conclusion, social and economic changes have led to modifications in food patterns in the last decades. Some had a potential positive impact, such as increasing variety in the diet and improved access to food, but are not consistent with an adequate food selection as described for a healthy Mediterranean diet. In contrast, some changes have moved the Spanish diet away from the traditional Mediterranean Diet pattern. Therefore, strategies that encourage a healthy diet and which also allow the recovery of the traditional Mediterranean Diet are a priority for nutritional policies.

Evaluation of food consumption and dietary patterns in Spain by the Food Consumption Survey: updated information. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010 Nov;64 Suppl 3:S37-43