A Joint WHO/FAO Expert Consultation on Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases met in Geneva from 28 January to 1 February 2002. The Consultation followed up the work of a WHO Study Group on Diet, Nutrition and Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases, which had met in 1989 to make recommendations regarding the prevention of chronic diseases and the reduction of their impact. The Consultation recognized that the growing epidemic of chronic disease afflicting both developed and developing countries was related to dietary and lifestyle changes and undertook the task of reviewing the considerable scientific progress that has been made in different areas. For example, there is better epidemiological evidence for determining certain risk factors, and the results of a number of new controlled clinical trials are now available. The mechanisms of the chronic disease process are clearer, and interventions have been demonstrated to reduce risk.