Press release

PHE publishes latest data on nation’s diet

Public Health England has today published new data detailing the state of the nation’s diet.


The figures from the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) collected from 2014 to 2016 show:

  • sugar makes up 13.5% of 4- to 10-year-olds, and 14.1% of teenagers’ (11- to 18-year-olds) daily calorie intake respectively; the official recommendation is to limit sugar to no more than 5%
  • 4- to 10-year-olds consume two thirds of the amount of sugary drinks they did 8 years ago – down from 130g per day in 2008 to 2010 to 83g in 2014 to 2016
  • for teenagers, sugary drink intake is more than double that of younger children (191g) even though consumption has decreased by 30%; sugary drinks remain the main source of sugar (22%) in their diets

The survey confirms the UK population continues to consume too much saturated fat and not enough fruit, vegetables, and fibre:

  • average saturated fat intake for adults (19 to 64 year olds) is 12.5% of daily calorie intake, above the 11% recommended maximum
  • adults consume on average 4.2 portions of fruit and vegetables per day, 65- to 74-year-olds consume 4.3 portions and teenagers consume just 2.7 portions per day
  • only 31% of adults, 32% of 65- to 74-year-olds and 8% of teenagers meet the 5 A Day recommendation for fruit and vegetables
  • average fibre intake in adults is 19g per day, well below the recommended 30g per day

Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said:

Poor diets are all too common in this country and, along with obesity, are now one of the leading causes of disease such as cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It’s clear from these data that the nation’s diet needs an overhaul.

A healthy balanced diet is the foundation to good health. Eating 5 A Day and reducing our intake of calories, sugar, and saturated fat is what many of us need to do to reduce the risk of long term health problems.

The data underscores PHE’s call for the population to follow a healthy balanced diet, based on the Eatwell Guide, which includes eating at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables per day, increasing consumption of oily fish and fibre and limiting the amount food high in saturated fat, sugar and salt.

Following a healthy, balanced diet and reducing calories will help reduce obesity and the economic and social burden of its consequences.


  1. The NDNS rolling programme is a continuous cross-sectional survey, designed to assess the diet, nutrient intake and nutritional status of a representative sample of around 1,000 people per year (500 adults and 500 children) from the general population aged 18 months upwards living in private households in the UK. The NDNS comprises an interview, a 4-day diet diary and collection and analysis of blood and urine samples. Results are used by government to monitor the diet and nutritional status of the population, to provide the evidence base for policy development and to track progress towards public health nutrition objectives such as reducing sugar, saturated fat and salt intakes. This report covers data collected over a 2-year period – from year 2014 to 2015 to year 2015 to 2016.

  2. Work to deliver years 7 and 8 of the NDNS rolling programme was carried out by NatCen Social Research and the Medical Research Council Elsie Widdowson Laboratory (formerly known as MRC Human Nutrition Research).

  3. The last NDNS report covering years 5 and 6, (2012 to 2013; 2013 to 2014) was published in 2016.

  4. Reference to poor diets being one of the leading causes of disease: Newton JN et al (2014) - Changes in health in England, with analysis by English regions and areas of deprivation, 1990 to 2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. Lancet 386(10010):2257-74.

  5. The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) advice is to limit free sugars to no more than 5% of daily calorie intake:

  • adults should have no more than 30g of free sugars a day, (roughly equivalent to seven sugar cubes)
  • children aged 7 to 10 should have no more than 24g of free sugars a day (six sugar cubes)
  • children aged 4 to 6 should have no more than 19g of free sugars a day (five sugar cubes)
  • there is no guideline limit for children under the age of 4, but it’s recommended they avoid sugar-sweetened drinks and food with sugar added to it

Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities. We do this through world-leading science, knowledge and intelligence, advocacy, partnerships and providing specialist public health services. We are an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care, and a distinct organisation with operational autonomy. We provide government, local government, the NHS, Parliament, industry and the public with evidence-based professional, scientific expertise and support. Follow us on Twitter: @PHE_uk and Facebook:

Published 16 March 2018