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National Nutrition Survey - U.K.: The National Diet and Nutrition Surveys

Published on

30 March 2016

The National Diet and Nutrition Surveys (NDNS) are a series of government-funded surveys of food intake, nutrient intake and nutritional status of the British population (adults aged 16 to 64), undertaken to support nutritional policy and risk assessment. In 2008, the UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) reviewed the latest NDNS, carried out between July 2000 and June 2001, to identify specific health outcomes where the population fails to meet dietary recommendations and specific groups are at risk. In addition, the SACN provided practical proposals for improvement where sections of the population had been shown to consume a poor diet.


  • Specific population groups identified as most at risk of poor dietary variety and low   
     nutrient intake and biochemical status were
    • Children aged 18 and under
    • Young adults aged 19–24 years (particularly women)
    • Smokers
    • People in lower socio-economic groups
    • Adults aged 65 years and over living in institutions
  • Many women had a micronutrient intake significantly below the reference  
     nutrient intakes (RNIs) and lower reference nutrient intakes (LRNIs) 
     (see Table below for details)
  • Many girls between ages 11 and 19 were missing out on nutrients they require to grow and develop as a result of not having a balanced diet.
  • Adults taking dietary supplements tended to be those with higher intakes of these micronutrients from food. In other words, those who could benefit most from the use of food supplements are likely not to be taking them.

Percentage of women with certain micronutrient intakes from food sources below the reference nutrient intakes (NDNS 2000/2001)



 Vitamin A*81     19  68     11   45     0846    05
 Vitamin B224     15  38     10   22     05 08    06 
 Vitamin B940     0336     02 28     0225    02
 Iron96     4293     41 90     0738    04
 Calcium56     0847     06 38     0636    03
 Magensium85     2284     20 71     1066    07
 Iodine63     1256     05 38     0431    01
 Zinc58     0560     05 39     0433    03
 Potassium67     3068     30 78     1682    10

*Retinol equivalents 


UK Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. The Nutritional Wellbeing of the
British Population. London: The Stationery Office, 2008.

In 2014, the combined results from the Years 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the National Diet Nutrition Survey (NDNS) 2008/09 – 2011/12 were published. The NDNS rolling program aims to provide quantitative data on the food and nutrient intakes, sources of nutrients and nutritional status. The program is carried out in all four countries of the United Kingdom (UK) and is designed to be representative of the UK population. A random sample of 21,573 addresses from 799 postcode sectors was issued. Where there were multiple households at an address, a single household was selected at random. For each household, either one adult (aged 19 years and over) and one child (aged 1.5 to 18 years), or one child only were randomly selected to take part. The response rate for completion of the diary of food and drink consumption over four consecutive days was 56% for Years 1 to 4 combined.


  • Adults aged 19 to 64 years on average consumed 4.1 portions of fruit and vegetables per day, while adults aged 65 years and over consumed 4.6 portions per day. Only 30% of adults and 41% of older adults met the “5-a-day” recommendation.
  • Mean consumption of fruit and vegetables for children aged 11 to 18 years was only 3.0 portions per day for boys and 2.7 portions per day for girls. Only 10% of boys and 7% of girls in this age group met the “5-a-day” recommendation.
  • The mean consumption of oily fish in all age groups was well below the recommended one portion (140g) per week. For example, mean consumption in adults aged 19 to 64 years was 54g per week (52g for men and 54g for women) and for adults aged 65 years and over mean consumption was 90g per week (103g for men and 81g for women).
  • Intakes below the Lower Reference Nutrient Intake (LRNI) were found in a proportion of the 11 to 18 years age group for vitamin Ariboflavin and folate (girls only). Women aged 19 to 64 years also had intakes below the LRNI for riboflavin.
  • There was evidence of an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency in all age/sex groups. Year-round, the proportion of children with a serum 25-OHD concentration below 25nmol/L ranged from 7.5% for children aged 1.5 to 3 years to 24.4% for girls aged 11 to 18 years and for adults this ranged from 16.9% for men aged 65 years and over to 24.1% for women aged 65 years and over. The proportion of participants with a serum 25-OHD concentration below 25nmol/L was higher in the winter months.
  • For iron, both the dietary intake and biochemical status data indicated an increased risk of iron deficiency in girls aged 11 to 18 years and women aged 19 to 64 years.
  • There was evidence of intakes below the LRNI in a substantial proportion of older children and adults for some minerals, particularly magnesiumpotassium and selenium.


National Diet and Nutrition Survey: Results from Years 1–4 (combined) of the Rolling Programme (2008/2009 – 2011/12): Executive summary. Public Health England Wellington House, London, 2014.

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