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expert reaction to results of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS)

Public Health England and the Food Standards Agency have published the results of the National Diet and Nutrition Survey for 2012 to 2013 and 2013 to 2014.


Prof. Christine Williams, Professor Human Nutrition, University of Reading, said:

“It is good to see the data coming out of the NDNS rolling programme; this allows us to see whether intakes for key public health targets are moving in the right direction. The fall in sugar intakes in children is encouraging, especially as rates of overweight in this age group also appear to be moderating.

“For all age groups trans fats are now very low and the levels reported in the NDNS surveys almost certainly represent the small amount of trans fats present in milk and dairy products (which naturally occur in diary fat).  Hydrogenated sources of trans fats have been removed by voluntary industry action since 2009.

“Saturated fats remain above recommended levels but there has been a small drop in older age groups who were eating the highest levels. Red and processed meat has also fallen in adult women, but not men.

“The news on teenager diets is not so positive; intake of fruits and vegetables is the lowest of all in this age group with no change in recent years, whereas they also show highest levels of sugars in their diet.

“For all age groups, levels of dietary fibre are well below – and sugar above – the recently revised recommended levels of intake and with no evidence of changes in the right direction. Intakes of oily fish are very low, especially in children and teenagers.

“If public health advice on diet is to be achieved there needs to be concerted action by all stakeholders including through industry reformulation and clearer labelling, especially for food eaten outside the home.”


Prof. Neena Modi, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said:

“The results of this survey are extremely worrying. It shows that sugar makes up about three times the recommended daily calorie intake. At a time when one in three ten year old children are overweight or obese, and one in three five-year olds has tooth decay, the health risks posed by failure to tackle sugar intake are serious. An overweight or obese child is highly likely to be an overweight or obese adult, increasing the risk of developing the risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

“This is why we are surprised the long-awaited UK Government childhood obesity strategy did not include a number of recommendations aimed at protecting children, such as a ban on advertising  junk food and limiting their sale around schools. We call for these measures to be reconsidered in order to safe-guard the health and well-being of all UK children.”


Dr Gunter Kuhnle, Associate Professor in Nutrition and Health, University of Reading, said:

“The NDNS is an extremely well conducted dietary survey which is designed to be representative of the entire population. As in most surveys, most dietary data are obtained by interviewing participants, and this can always introduce some mistakes. However, in the NDNS, methods are used to reduce this as much as possible.

“The results show very clearly how difficult it is to change dietary patterns. The five-a-day-campaign has been running for a long time and most people are aware of it. And even though most people would agree that eating more fruits and vegetables are beneficial, most people don’t achieve the 5-a-day.

“The results for sugary drinks in children are encouraging. Dietary changes normally take time and don’t happen quickly, so the reduction observed suggests that there is a trend in the right direction. Total sugar intake in children however remains unchanged, and further analyses with the data that has been collected would be needed for us to be able to identify the underlying causes. There are many dietary sources of sugar which are not as apparent as sweets, and for example fruit juices and smoothies, which are often seen as a ‘healthy’ alternative, can contain considerably more sugar than other sugary drinks.”




Declared interests

Prof. Christine Williams: “Member of Governing bodies of the Institute of Food Research and Scottish Rural University College;  Member of the British Nutrition Foundation Council and Chair of the Board of Trustees; Chair of the BBSRC Agriculture and Food Security Strategy Advisory Panel. Member of the Science Advisory Council for Wales.”

Prof. Neena Modi: “No interests to declare.”

Dr Gunter Kuhnle: “Associate Professor at the University of Reading.  Grant funding: Investigation of links between polyphenol intake and health – EU, Mars, Horizon.  Appointments: EFSA Working group – risk assessment of soy isoflavones.  Memberships: British Mass Spectrometry Society, British Nutrition Society, Registered Nutritionist (Reg. Nr. 8236); 2011 to 2012 member of ‘Biomarker group’ at ILSI Europe.  Other financial interests: Vineyard owned by family.”

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