Press release

New National Diet and Nutrition Survey shows UK population is eating too much sugar, saturated fat and salt

The latest survey data from 2008 to 2012 assesses the food consumption and nutrient intake of the UK.

Fresh vegetables

The latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) data released today (14 May 2014) by Public Health England (PHE) shows that overall the population is still consuming too much saturated fat, added sugars and salt and not enough fruit, vegetables, oily fish and fibre.

The NDNS is an annual survey designed to assess the food consumption and nutritional status of a UK representative sample of 1,000 people per year (500 children, 500 adults) aged 18 months upwards living in private households. The report presents results from the first 4 years of the programme (2008 and 2009 to 2011 and 2012) combined and supersedes the previous report published by Department of Health in July 2012 which covered the first 3 years.

The NDNS data for 2008 to 2012 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.


Notes to editors

  • Public Health England’s mission is to protect and improve the nation’s health and to address inequalities through working with national and local government, the NHS, industry and the voluntary and community sector. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. Follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk

  • NDNS results support work by DH in England, PHE and other Government bodies across the UK to improve the diet and nutrition of the UK population and so reduce diet-related disease. The survey monitors the diet and nutritional status of the population, providing the evidence base for the development of policy at a national level and to track progress towards public health objectives on diet and nutrition such as the 5-a-day message on fruit and vegetable consumption and the impact of Responsibility Deal Food Network pledges.

  • Results for food consumption, nutrient intake and blood analytes are presented as UK averages split by age and sex. Results for salt intake (based on 24-hour urinary sodium) are presented for children and older adults but not for adults aged 19 to 64 years as intake based on data collected in 2011 has already been published.

  • Results cover food consumption, nutrient intakes and nutritional status (blood analytes) in age/sex groups as well as contextual information such as the height, weight and socio demographic characteristics of the sample. The report includes detail on:

    • types and quantities of foods consumed

    • intake of energy and macronutrients such as saturated fat, trans fat and sugar

    • intake of micronutrients such as iron, calcium, folate, and vitamin D

    • comparison of nutrient intakes with UK Dietary Reference Values

    • indicators of longer term status for vitamins and iron from blood analysis including comparison with threshold values indicating low status where these exist

    • statistical analysis of intakes by household income quintile for key foods and nutrients

    • intakes of key foods and nutrients broken down into more detailed age groups for adults

    • statistical analysis comparing intakes in years 1 and 2 with 3 and 4 for key foods and nutrients

    • intakes of key nutrients compared with previous NDNS carried out in the 1990s

  • Change4Life, the flagship PHE healthy lifestyle social marketing campaign, encourages everyone in England to ‘eat well, move more, live longer’. The C4L Smart Swaps campaign encourages the public to make some manageable like-for-like swaps to their diet to remove excess calories, fat and sugar and eat more fruit, vegetables and fibre. A healthy lifestyle, which includes eating a balanced diet that is low in sugar and fat and being physically active, will help to prevent becoming overweight or obese and reduce your risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

Photo courtesy Shutterstock, rights reserved.

Published 14 May 2014