"...all doctors should be able to diagnose and treat nutritional deficiencies."

Royal College of Physicians. Nutrition and Patients: A Doctor's Responsibility. London 2002


This page has been printed from the www.stewartnutrition.co.uk web site.

National Diet and Nutrition Survey:
British People aged 19 to 64 years


The survey collected information from volunteers whose addresses were identified by random postal sifting and thus in-patients, those in institutional care and those of no fixed abode were excluded.  The following information was collected from participants:

  1. a 7-day weighed dietary intake record of all food eaten within and outside the home including alcohol intake
  2. blood samples and a 24 hour urine collection for assessment of micronutrient status
  3. a record of physical activity, anthropometric measures and blood pressure

Over 5,000 addresses were contacted, 1,724 adults completed the dietary record and 1,347 provided a blood sample.

Main Findings

The report breaks the data down into four age-dependent sub-groups but only total percentages are presented for each sex here. 

Analysis revealed that there was probably some under-reporting of food intakes especially in young men and this may mean that intake data slightly over-represents the percentage of people with poor intakes.

    • The amount of energy provided by dietary fats has fallen over the preceding fifteen years to 33% of total energy intake
    • Protein intakes were borderline or low  in 2% of men (<45 g/day) and 4% of women (< 35 g/day)
    • A low BMI, <18.5 kg/m2 was found in 1% of men and 3% of women.
    • Approximately 40% of men and 30% of women exceeded the safe upper weekly limits for alcohol of 21 units and 14 units respectively.
    • Anaemia was found in 8% of women and 3% of men and was most commonly but not only due to iron deficiency
    • Subnormal serum ferritin levels were found in 11% of women and 4% of men (< 15 ug/l or < 20 ug/l respectively)
    • Deficiencies of folate (red cell folate < 350 nmol/l) and vitamin B12 (serum vitamin B12 < 118 pmol/l) occurred in 5% and 3% respectively of adults surveyed but macrocytic anaemia was very rare
    • Plasma vitamin C was found to be low (<11.0 umol/l) in 3% of those surveyed
    • Plasma retinol levels were low (< 0.7 umol/l) in 1% of all adults
    • Plasma retinol levels were mildy elevated (>2.5 - 3.0 umol/l) in 14% of all men and 6% of all women respectively and 7% of women aged 50-64 years had plasma retinol levels > 3.0 umol/l
    • Vitamin D deficiency (plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D < 25.0 nmol/l) was found in 14% of men and 15% of women and was more prevalent in the younger age groups.  There was considerable seasonal variation with blood levels being at their lowest in January to March
    • Calcium intakes were below the LRNI in 2% of men and 5% of women
    • Potassium intakes were below the LRNI in 6% of men and 19% of women due to the poor intake of fresh fruit and vegetables which averaged approximately 3 servings daily against a target of five or more
    • Magnesium intakes were below the LRNI in 9% of men and 13% of women
    • Socio-economic deprivation was often the greatest risk factor for nutritional inadequacy
    • Nutritional supplements were taken by 29% of men and 40% of women but this only reduced the percentage of those whose intakes were deficient (below the LRNI) by approximately 1% for each nutrient
    • Blood mercury levels were also measured and they rose in both sexes with increasing age reaching values above 25.7 nmol/l (>5 ug/l) in over 3% of all adults and were at their highest in women aged 50 – 64 years


    1.   Henderson L, Gregory J, and Swan G.  The National Diet and Nutrition Survey: adults aged 19 to 64 years.  Volume 1: Types and quantities of foods consumed.  TSO (London 2002).
    2.   Henderson L, Gregory J, Irving K and Swan G.  The National Diet and Nutrition Survey: adults aged 19 to 64 years.  Volume 2: Energy, protein, carbohydrate, fat and alcohol intake.  TSO (London 2003)
    3.   Henderson L, Irving K, Gregory J, Bates C J, Prentice A, Perks J, Swan G, Farron M.  The National Diet and Nutrition Survey: adults aged 19 to 64 years.  Volume 3: Vitamin and Mineral intake and urinary analytes.  TSO (London 2003)
    4.   Ruston D, Hoare J, Henderson L, Gregory J, Bates CJ, Prentice A, Birch M, Swan G and Farron M. The National Diet and Nutrition Survey: adults aged 19 to 64 years.  Volume 4: Nutritional status (anthropometry and blood analytes), blood pressure and physical activity.  TSO (London 2004)

Copyright Dr. Alan Stewart M.B.B.S.M.R.C.P. (UK)M.F. Hom.
47 Priory Street, Lewes, East Sussex. BN7 1HJ
Tel 01273 487003 Fax: 01273 487576