Date Published: 9 February 2010

A revealing insight into the nation's diet

Health Food - illustrating an item from the UK Food Standards Agency.

Results from the first year of the new National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) suggest that the UK population is eating less saturated fat, less trans fat and less added sugar than it was 10 years ago.

Saturated fat intakes in adults have dropped slightly to 12.8% of food energy, compared with 13.3% in 2000/01, and men and children are eating less added sugar.

The population’s trans fat intakes have also fallen slightly and are now at 0.8% of food energy, which is well within recommended levels. And, on average, adults are eating 4.4 portions of fruit and vegetables a day with over a third of men and women now meeting the ‘5-a-day’ guideline.

However, despite these encouraging indications, intakes of saturated fat are still above the recommended level of 11% of food energy intake, and at 12.5%, population intakes of added sugars still exceed the recommended 11%.

The research shows that the overall picture of the diet and nutrition of the UK population is broadly similar to previous surveys in the NDNS series carried out between 1992 and 2001, although there are suggestions of positive changes. Importantly though, the findings do not identify any new or emerging nutritional problems in the general population.

Other findings include:

  • People are still not eating enough fibre, which is essential for healthy digestion. Current average intakes are 14g per day for adults, some way below the recommended 18g.
  • Consumption of oily fish, which is the main source of beneficial omega 3 fatty acids, remains low. Both adults and children are eating well below the recommendation of one portion per week.
  • Iron intakes among girls aged 11 to 18 years and women are still low in many cases – which can lead to iron deficiency and anaemia. However, overall, vitamin and mineral intakes among the population are slightly improved.

Gill Fine, Director of Consumer Choice and Dietary Health at the FSA, said:

" The results from the first year of our new NDNS rolling programme provide us with an interesting snapshot of the nation’s diet, and will allow us to track emerging trends over future years. The evidence from this and from further surveys will help us and other government departments formulate policy to address the issues that have been raised.

It’s good news that the survey suggests around a third of the population is eating five portions of fruit and veg each day and it’s encouraging to see that these initial findings suggest slightly lower intakes of saturated fat and added sugars than in previous surveys. However, there is obviously a way to go before we are meeting all the Government’s dietary recommendations.

Good nutrition is important for health and poor diet accounts for a large percentage of premature deaths. We now need to build on the indications of positive change we have observed in this survey. By continuing our programme of campaign work and encouraging product reformulation in key areas such as saturated fat, we will hopefully observe further improvements over the next few years of the programme. "


Source: Food Standards Agency (FSA), UK.

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