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ONS - National Diet and Nutrition Survey

This survey is part of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) programme which aims to gather information about the dietary habits and nutritional status of the British population.

The Survey was carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Medical Research Council Human Nutrition Research between July 2000 and June 2001. The fieldwork consisted of four waves of data collection, to take account of seasonal variation, and was conducted on a random sample of the population from 152 areas covering Scotland, England and Wales. One adult per household was selected at random and invited to take part.

The surveys took place across four age ranges: children aged 1 ½ to 4 ½ years, young people aged 4 to 18 years, adults aged 19 to 64 years and adults aged over 65 years. The survey for adults aged 19-64, is used to develop nutrition policy at local and national levels and contribute to the evidence base for Government advice on healthy eating which would affect this age group. The survey examines the relationship between diet and health and also includes information on physical activity and oral health in relation to dietary intake and nutritional status.

The initial stages of the survey involved a face-to-face interview to collect general information on the individual, their household, general eating habits and health. They were then asked to keep a record of everything they ate and drank at home and out of the home over a seven day period. Additional survey components were requested from participants, including a seven-day record of physical activity; a seven day record of bowel movements; an eating behaviour questionnaire; blood pressure and anthropometric measurements; a blood sample; an oral health assessment and a 24-hour urine collection.

Types and quantities of food consumed

The information collected on the types and quantities of food that were consumed by the respondents was taken from the seven-day weighed intake dietary records. This section provides consumption figures, based on the mean amounts consumed during the seven-day recording period, differentiating between sex and age, for 26 food categories.

Some of the differences between men and women included that men were more likely to have consumed meat and meat products; men consumed 2.7 portions and women consumed 2.9 portions of fruit and vegetables per day and 21% of men and 15% of women consumed no fruit over the seven-day period. Differences that occurred between age groups included that the youngest group of adults were more likely to consume savoury snacks and soft drinks and the oldest age group were more likely to have consumed fish and fish dishes.

The survey also took account of household benefits, and it was found that adults in benefit households were less likely to consume a number of foods including fruit and alcoholic drinks. They also consumed fewer portions of fruit and vegetables. Men in benefit households consumed 2.1 portions and women 1.9 portions, compared to those in non-benefit households that ate 2.8 and 3.1 portions respectively.

In 2007 the FSA carried out a survey called The Low Income Diet and Nutrition Survey (LIDNS) to investigate eating habits, nourishment and nutrition-related health of people on low income. For more up to date information on nutritional status and dietary habits in low income and benefit households, this report can be consulted. (See the link above).

Energy and nutrient intakes

Nutrient and energy intakes were also calculated from the data collected from the seven-day weighed intake records. They are differentiated by age group, sex and for energy and selected nutrients the percentage of the total intake derived from different food types is shown.

The mean total daily energy intakes for all age groups and for each sex were below recommendations, with an average of 2313kcal for men and 1632kcal for women. However, the mean percentage of food energy derived from saturated fatty acids was above the recommendations for each sex and age group, 13.4% on average for all men and 13.2% on average for all women (it is recommended that individuals’ saturated fatty acid intake should not exceed 11%).  The mean percentage of food energy derived from non-milk extrinsic sugars also exceeded recommendations in each sex and age group except for the oldest group of women. 60% of men and 44% of women exceeded the recommendations for alcohol consumption (3-4 units for men and 2-3 units for women) on at least one day of the recorded period. There was evidence of low intakes of vitamin A, riboflavin, magnesium and potassium in men and women, particularly in the youngest age groups. Over 40% of the two youngest groups of women had low intakes of iron. Mean intakes of salt exceeded the 6g per day recommendation in all sex and age groups, (men 11.0g and women 8.1g).

Adults living in benefit households had lower average intakes of energy and some nutrients, particularly vitamins and minerals in comparison to adults in non-benefit households. A higher proportion of women in benefit households had lower intakes of vitamin A, riboflavin, folate and all minerals in comparison to non-benefit households. (See the LIDNS survey for more recent information).

Nutritional status, blood pressure and physical activity

Nutritional status is described in this report, by physical measurements (anthropometric) and from results of the blood sample analyses. Blood pressure measurements were also taken and respondent took a seven-day record of physical activity.

25% of men and 20% of women were obese, and a further 42% and 32% respectively were overweight according to BMI measurements. 1% of men and 3% of women were classified as underweight.

22% of men and 13% of women were recorded to have high blood pressure, the proportions of which increased with age.

Only 36% of men and 26% of women met the DH recommendations for physical activity, which is ‘five-a-week,’ which equates to 30 minutes or more of activities of at least moderate intensity on five or more days.

Among the results of the blood sample analyses, the results included: 48% of men and women, overall, had blood levels of total cholesterol above the optimal level; 14% of men and 15% of women had low vitamin D status, rising to 24% of men and 28% of women in the youngest age group and 8% of women and 3% of men were anaemic.

All 5 volumes of the survey is available here.

Comparison with the 1986/87 Adults Survey

The information collected from the NDNS for adults aged 19-64 was compared to the data from the Dietary and Nutritional Survey of British Adults carried out in 1986/87. This was the most recent survey, of a similar nature, that had been carried out prior to the NDNS.

Respondents in the present survey were more likely to have consumed breakfast cereals, savoury snacks, soft drinks (low calorie) and alcoholic drinks, in comparison to the 1986/87 Survey whose respondents were more likely to have consumed biscuits, buns, cakes, meat and meat products and fish and fish products.

Men in the present survey had lower average energy intakes than men in the 1986/87 Survey, however, both men and women derived more of their energy from protein and carbohydrate and less from fat and fatty acids than those in the 1986/87 Survey. Men and women in the NDNS had higher intakes of folate, vitamin C, calcium, potassium than those in the 1986/97 Survey, who recorded higher intakes of vitamin A, copper and zinc.

A higher proportion of both men and women were classified as overweight or obese in the present survey; 66% and 53% respectively, in comparison to 45% of men and 36% of women in the 1986/87 Survey.

To improve the timeliness and flexibility of the NDNS programme, a rolling format has now been introduced, beginning in 2008. A sample of 1000 people per year (aged from 1½ years) is now assessed allowing the analysis of the data from a group of 1500 adults and children after 2 years. This enables more frequent reporting from the survey and provides researchers with the opportunity to better analyse trends in dietary intake.

Last reviewed July 2009. Next review due January 2013.  

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