Key points

  • Requirements for energy and nutrients do not change greatly between the ages of 19 and 50 years, except during pregnancy or lactation, but do vary according to gender and activity levels.
  • In England, 41% of men and 33% of women are overweight (a BMI of 25-30 kg/m2), and an additional 26% of men and 24% of women are obese (a BMI of more than 30 kg/m2), according to Department of Health's Health Survey for England 2013. 
  • Adults should aim to be active on a daily basis and achieve at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate intensity activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity (or combination of both types of exercise) spread over the course of a week. Adults should also undertake muscle strengthening activities on at least two days a week. Being active on a daily basis delivers a range of health benefits, including helping to maintain a healthy weight and reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. 
  • On average, the diet of UK adults provides more than enough of most nutrients, but intakes of some vitamins and minerals have been shown to be low in some age/sex groups e.g. iron in young women.
  • The percentage of energy derived from saturated fatty acids is higher than recommended (although total fat intake is close to recommendations), and the average diet contains too little fibre and too much salt. Average intake of free sugars is also higher than the target.
  • Several nutrients may be of particular importance for women’s health including iron, calcium and folate. Nutrients of particular relevance for men include selenium and lycopene, which may play role in protecting against prostate cancer.