To update the guidelines for adults, the Ministry and the Technical Advisory Group considered the latest evidence reviews from similar countries and international organisations.
The eating guidelines are based on evidence used for national dietary guidelines in Australia, the United States and Nordic countries*.
Similar eating patterns are advocated by international organisations such as the World Health Organization and the World Cancer Research Fund.
The activity guidelines are based on the Australian Department of Health’s recommendations for adults, which build on evidence from the United States and United Kingdom.
Nutrition and physical activity science is always evolving and the Ministry of Health continues to monitor findings from worldwide research.
Eating and Body Weight Statements
The various evidence reports for Eating Statements 1, 2 and 3 and the Body Weight Statement used different methodologies and their evidence comes from associations between health outcomes and specific foods and overall eating patterns. The evidence for each Statement is described in the ‘Reasons for recommendation’ section under each Statement in the Guidelines.
Overall, all of the evidence considered for Eating Statements 1, 2 and 3 and the Body Weight Statement consistently describes the features of a healthy diet that can lower the risk of developing non-communicable disease.
Based on this evidence and specific consideration of the body’s need for certain amounts of essential nutrients (see the Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand), the Eating Statements describe an eating pattern that:
- includes a lot of vegetables and fruit
- includes whole grains, low- or reduced-fat milk products, legumes, nuts, seeds, fish and other seafood
- is low in processed meats, saturated fat, sodium and sugar-sweetened foods and drinks
- is rich in essential nutrients for the body
- is linked with less excess weight gain (especially when a person eats foods low in energy density (kilojoules) and also has a physically active lifestyle)
- is linked with a lower risk of developing non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer.
Healthy eating during pregnancy and while breastfeeding is based on the general healthy eating advice for any adult with an increased requirement for some nutrients as determined by the Nutrient Reference Values (NHMRC 2006) for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
* The Nordic Nutrition Recommendations 2012 include nutrient reference values as well as recommendations on food and food patterns for a healthy diet. For the new eating guidelines, we have only considered their evidence for food and food patterns, as New Zealand has its own recommended Nutrient Reference Values.
|EAG statement||Sources of evidence|
|Activity Statements||Australia’s Development of Evidence-based Physical Activity Recommendations for Adults (18–64 years) (Brown et al 2012)|
|World Cancer Research Fund Report (WCRF and AICR 2007)|
|Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology’s 2019 Canadian guideline for physical activity throughout pregnancy (Mottola et al 2018). For a summary, see the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology website.|
Support for the Activity Statements for adults comes from a systematic graded review of evidence from the Australian Government’s Department of Health. The Development of Evidence-based Physical Activity Recommendations for Adults (18–64 years) was written in 2012 and released in 2014.
This report summarises the scientific evidence on the relationship between physical activity and health. It also grades the level of evidence to support the Department of Health’s Physical Activity Statements according to the NHMRC Additional Levels of Evidence and Grades for Recommendations for Developers of Guidelines.
The NHMRC quality rating system was applied to all the Activity Statements. The grades used are:
- ‘convincing association’, which indicates that the ‘evidence can be trusted to guide clinical practice’
- ‘probable association’, indicating that the evidence ‘can be trusted in most situations’
- ‘suggestive association’, where ‘the body of evidence provides some support for the recommendations but care should be taken in its application’.
Evidence on the benefits of physical activity for the health of pregnant women comes from the ‘2019 Canadian guideline for physical activity throughout pregnancy’ (Mottola et al 2018).
The Canadian guideline recommendations have been assessed using the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) system. The recommendations are graded as strong or weak. Strong recommendations are those where ‘most or all pregnant women will be best served by the recommended course of action’, while weak recommendations are those where ‘not all pregnant women will be best served by the recommended course of action; there is a need to consider other factors such as the individual’s circumstances, preferences, values, resources available or settings’.