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National diet must change

Survey results reveal will are still addicted to sugar, salt and fat rich foods

Mark Gould

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The UK population is still consuming too much saturated fat, added sugars and salt and not enough fruit, vegetables, oily fish and fibre according to the latest national survey.

The National Diet and Nutrition Survey released by Public Health England (PHE) is designed to assess the food consumption and nutritional status of a representative sample of 1,000 people per year (500 children, 500 adults).

The report presents results from the first 4 years of the programme (2008 and 2009 to 2011 and 2012). It shows:

  • Sugars (non-milk extrinsic sugars (NMES), also referred to as ‘added sugars’): average intakes exceeded the recommendation of no more than 11% food energy for all age groups, most notably for children aged 4 to 10 and 11 to 18 years where average intakes provided 14.7% and 15.6% food energy respectively.
  • Saturated fat: average saturated fat intakes in all age groups exceeded the recommended level of no more than 11% food energy. For example, average saturated fat intake for adults aged 19 to 64 years was 12.6% food energy. Intake of trans fats by all age groups met recommendations.
  • Salt: average salt intake for older adults aged 65 years and over was 7.2g/day, above the recommended maximum daily limit of 6g/day. Average salt intake in children aged 4 to 18 years also exceeded the SACN recommendations for each age group except for children aged 7 to 10 years. Salt intake for adults aged 19 to 64 years was published in 2012.
  • Fruit and vegetables:
    • adults aged 19 to 64 years consumed on average 4.1 portions per day and adults 65 and over consumed 4.6 portions. 30% of adults and 41% of older adults met the “5-a-day” recommendation.
    • boys and girls aged 11 to 18 years consumed on average 3.0 and 2.7 portions per day respectively. 10% of boys and 7% of girls in this age group met the “5-a-day” recommendation.
  • Oily fish: average consumption of oily fish was well below the recommended one portion (140g) per week in all age groups.
  • Vitamin D: blood analyses showed evidence of low vitamin D status in 23% of adults aged 19 to 64 years and 22% children aged 11 to 18 years over the year as a whole. This increases to 40% for both in the winter months.
  • Iron: 46% of girls and 23% of women had low iron intakes.

The data underpins PHE’s call for the population to lead a healthy lifestyle by eating a balanced diet, based on the eatwell plate, which includes eating a minimum of 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables per day and increasing consumption of oily fish and fibre.

Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at PHE, said:

"The data released today provides compelling evidence that we all need to make changes to our diet to improve our health, especially for teenagers. Eating a healthy, balanced diet that is high in fruit, vegetables and fibre and low in saturated fat, sugar and salt, alongside being more active, will help you to maintain a healthy weight and lower your risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

"The findings, from the 4 years covered by the survey, confirm that eating habits do not change quickly. It is clear that we all need to work together to help people improve their diets; this data will help PHE to target its work in the most effective way."

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