Overview Why Compile Food Composition Tables

Food composition data are an integral component of evaluating and planning nutrient intakes. Without information on the nutrient content of foods, it is not possible to convert dietary intake data, based on foods consumed, into nutrient intake data. The science of developing accurate food composition data has advanced substantially with the advent of sophisticated laboratory equipment and methods for food analyses as well as increasingly powerful computers that are used to compile and store the results. The International Network of Food Data Systems (INFOODS) at the Food and Agriculture Organization has provided guidelines and training to help countries improve their food composition tables. However, comprehensive analyses of the many nutrients and other bioactive components of foods remain both challenging and expensive, and given the enormous variety of foods consumed throughout the world, food composition tables are often incomplete. Often, the intake calculations that are based on these tables must be regarded as estimates of true nutrient intakes. Nonetheless, for many purposes related to promoting health, nutrient intake estimates are essential and can lead to actions that improve the health of both individuals and populations.

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