Summary The Food Standards Agency's Optimal Nutrition Research Programme (N05) has been in existence since 1993 and a review was undertaken of its achievements over the last 5 years in order to determine its future direction. An independent panel of experts agreed that the Programme as a whole represented a sustained effort and has resulted in an excellent body of nutrition research within the UK. The Programme is large and mainly covers work on micronutrient status (i.e. markers of exposure to dietary intake and functional markers) and bioavailability of micronutrients. It also covers projects on the effect of several nutrients on bone health, cognitive function and life-course events. With respect to these health outcomes, the Programme has expanded beyond its original remit for research on micronutrients. It now covers aspects of bioavailability and function of macronutrients and other bioactive dietary factors, such as n-3 fatty acids. However, the experts agreed there is no advantage to be gained in re-focusing onto micronutrients or for splitting the Programme into smaller units. Priorities were re-confirmed and suggestions were made for future directions of the Programme.