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UK data reveals majority do not meet healthy eating targets

Wednesday May 21, 2014 at 8:11am
Majority do not meet healthy eating targets

Intake of saturated fat, sugars and salt are a major cause for concern 

According to key findings from a report put together by Public Health England (PHE) and added to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, the UK population is consuming far too much saturated fat, added sugars and salt and not enough fruit, vegetables, oily fish and fibre. The report states these findings should be a cause for concern for our nation. Results are compared to results from previous years in which the survey has run.

The report was run over 4 years and found that in the UK population as a whole, the mean intake of saturated fat, sugar and salt were all above the dietary recommendations and the mean intake of fruit, vegetables and oily fish were all below dietary recommendations. An increased risk of vitamin D deficiency in all age and sex groups was also found. 

Compelling evidence to suggest we need to make dietary changes

The data is found to be particularly interesting due to the fact that it provides a measure of exactly what people are eating and drinking rather than replying on estimates based on household purchase or supply availability information. Dr Alison Tedstone, a chief nutritionist at PHE stated that the data provided by the report presents compelling evidence that everybody needs to make dietary changes, however it is also clear that eating habits do not change quickly and that relevant authorities, experts and professionals in the health industry need to work together to improve diets.

The report found that only 33% of adults and 41% of older adults met the '5 a day' recommendation, only 10% of boys and 7% of girls aged 11 to 19 met the recommendation. 

Current UK diet and nutrition recommendations 

Current UK recommendations for consumption of fruit and vegetables, red and processed meat and oily fish are shown below:

 Food   Recommendation  
 Fruit and vegetables  At least 5 portions per day for those aged 11 years and over    
 Red and processed meata     Should not exceed 70g per day for adults
 Oily fishb  At least 1 portion per week for all ages (140g)

a Red meat includes beef, lamb, pork, sausages, burgers and kebabs, offal, processed red meat and other red meat. 

b Oily fish includes anchovies, carp, trout, mackerel, herring, jack fish, pilchards, salmon (including canned), sardines, sprats, swordfish, tuna (fresh only) and whitebait  

Government to re-think 5 a day policy - 7 a day is better!

Further research by scientists at the University of Liverpool supports the consensus that more should be done to increase consumption of fruit and vegetables in England. They also suggest a major rethink of the UK government's five a day policy.

Lifestyle analysis of 65,000 adults in England aged at least 35 confirmed the positive effects of fruit and vegetables in reducing deaths from heart disease, stroke and cancer but suggested the benefits are much greater with at least seven portions. The research states that seven or even 10 portions a day would save a lot more lives.

Vegetable more effective than fruit at warding off disease

The results of the study which was published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health also suggest vegetables are more effective than fruit at warding off disease - in fact mortality decreased exponentially with each additional serving.

In addition, seven or more daily portions of fruit and vegetables was found to lower overall mortality rates by 42% and cancer and heart disease and strike by 25% and 31% respectively.



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