According to a new UK nutrition survey many consumers do not eat enough fruit, vegetables and oily fish to meet adequate intakes of vitamins, such as vitamin D, carotenoids and omega-3 fatty acids.
The latest results of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS), which tracked the UK’s food consumption and nutrient intake from 2008-2012, showed that, overall, big parts of UK’s population still do not consume enough fruit, vegetables, oily fish and fibre (1). Whilst all age groups are consuming more added sugar than the maximum target of 11% food energy, with children aged between 4 and 18 years having an average intake up to 15.6%, the intake of fruit and vegetable high in vitamins and carotenoids remains much lower than the 5 portions a day recommendation. The highest fruit and vegetable intake is seen in older adults (above 65 years), 41% of whom achieve 5 a day compared with only 30% of adults between 19 to 64 years. Intakes in 11 to 18 year olds were even lower with only 10% boys and 7% girls meeting the recommenda- tion.
In addition to the diet survey, blood tests were carried out to measure vitamin D status. Results showed that 23% of 19 to 64 year olds and 22% of 11 to 18 years old were deficient in vitamin D, rising to 40% in winter. The researchers commented that whilst dietary sources of vitamin D contribute just 10% during summer months when sunlight is at its optimal for vitamin D synthesis, diet is essential during the winter months particularly if sun exposure has been limited during the summer. Dietary sources rich in vitamin D include oily fish, eggs and fortified products such as breakfast cereals and yogurts. According to the scientists, herein lies a further barrier to meeting requirements as average oily fish intake in all age groups was far less than the recommended one portion (140 g) per week. The results demonstrate that eating habits do not change quickly and reinforces the need to continue the healthy balanced lifestyle message in the UK, the researchers concluded.