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Survey of Danes’ dietary and physical activity habits has been launched

Wednesday 02 Dec 20


Sisse Fagt
Senior adviser
National Food Institute
+45 35 88 74 22


Mette Rosenlund Sørensen
Postdoc (former employee)
National Food Institute


Jeppe Matthiessen
Senior adviser
National Food Institute
+45 35 88 74 44

The National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, has launched the next Danish National Survey of Diet and Physical Activity. Researchers and authorities will use data from the survey as a basis for ensuring the safety of food, promoting public health and reducing the climate impact of the diet in Denmark.

The next Danish National Survey of Diet and Physical Activity has got out of the starting blocks. It will show e.g., how Danes’ dietary and physical activity habits have changed over the last decade. The National Food Institute regularly conducts the survey to keep up with changes in what Danes eat and their level of physical activity.

Survey data will be used e.g. to examine the extent to which the Danish diet covers the need for vitamins and minerals and lives up to the official dietary guidelines, as well as to estimate the diet's climate impact and to assess which changes are needed to make the diet healthier and more climate-friendly.

Data are also used to calculate Danes’ intake of harmful substances, which allows authorities to assess whether measures are needed to minimize the intake.

The survey will provide data on what 4,000 randomly selected 4-80-year-old Danes eat and drink over the course of a week as well as their level of physical activity. Risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, are also measured in most participants, and the 40-70-year-olds can opt to have a blood sample taken to determine their levels of cholesterol, triglycerides and fasting glucose.

Insight into trends over time

This is the sixth national diet survey. The last survey was carried out in 2011-2013, when the average meat intake for a Dane was high e.g., because many Danes at that time followed trends in popular diets such as the Paleo and the Atkins diets, which are high in meat.

The researchers conducting the survey expect Danes’ meat intake to be different when data from 2020-2021 have been collected and analyzed.

”People usually only change behaviour slowly. Nonetheless, we expect that people’s dietary habits have been influenced by the focus in recent years on how our meat intake in particular is a significant contributor to the climate impact of the diet. It is likely that we will see this reflected in the data on meat intake,” Senior Advisor Sisse Fagt explains.

"Compared with previous surveys, the new and improved data collection method will allow us to collect many more details about what Danes eat."
Senior Advisor Sisse Fagt

“It will also be interesting to see whether the population wants to reduce meat intake and how this varies in different population groups. The survey will provide us with answers to these questions,” Postdoc Mette Rosenlund Sørensen says.

Far more detailed, web-based diet diary

For the first time in this population, participants will use a web-based diet diary to record what they eat and drink. The participants will also record their physical activity in a web-based step diary.

With the transition from a paper to a web-based diet diary, the list of foods from which the participants can choose has grown from 400 to 1700 items. The list is representative of the foods that are available to Danish consumers today. The diet diary also includes improved tools, which participants can use to show how much they have eaten of each food item.

”Compared with previous surveys, the new and improved data collection method will allow us to collect many more details about what Danes eat,” Sisse Fagt says.

Survey during the COVID-19 pandemic

The Danish National Survey of Diet and Physical Activity was launched in the spring of 2020 only to be stopped shortly after due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown of Denmark. One reason for doing so was that the initial face-to-face interview is conducted during home visits at which time the interviewer also measures the participants’ height, weight, waist circumference and blood pressure. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only affected the start of the survey: Many Danes' dietary habits also differ from their usual habits, e.g. because they work at home more and therefore do not eat in the workplace canteen, or because their consumption of take-away, ready meals or dining out has changed. Physical activity habits are also affected by the fact that daily life is different in many ways.

“It will also be interesting to see if the increase in working at home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has led Danes to be less physically active during daily life, because many do not cycle or walk to and from work as they normally would. Danes may also have gained some weight during the COVID-19 pandemic because of more sweet treats and less physical activity,” Senior Advisor Jeppe Matthiessen says.

Læs mere

Find more information about the Danish National Survey of Diet and Physical Activity on the National Food Institute’s website: Dietary habits and physical activity.

The National Food Institute has launched a separate study to look at the effects of the lockdown of Denmark during the spring by collecting data about diet and physical activity from the same group of participants in April and again in September. Read about the study in this news item: What effect is the corona pandemic having on what Danes eat?
21 OCTOBER 2021