U.K. survey shows trends in nation's eating pattern

by Eric Schroeder
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LONDON — New findings from a dietary survey conducted by the Food Standards Agency suggest the United Kingdom population is eating less saturated fat, trans fat and added sugar than it was 10 years ago.
The survey, known as the “National Diet and Nutrition Survey,” is the first comprehensive study conducted on people’s eating patterns since 2001, when the survey was last carried out.

According to the survey, U.K. adults’ intake of saturated fat has dropped to 12.8% of food energy, which compared with 13.3% in 2000-01. The total still remains well above the U.K.’s recommended level of 11%, though.

Trans fat intakes, meanwhile, have fallen to 0.8% of food energy, which is within recommended levels.

The survey found that while men and children are eating less added sugar, overall population intakes, at 12.5% of food energy, still exceed the recommended level of 11%.

Another concern to come out of the survey was the finding that current average intakes of fiber were 14 grams per day for adults, below the recommended 18 grams per day.

An encouraging finding to arise from the F.S.A. survey was the fact, on average, adults are eating 4.4 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, with more than a third of men and women now meeting the “5-a-day” guideline.

“The results from the first year of our new N.D.N.S. rolling program provide us with an interesting snapshot of the nation’s diet, and will allow us to track emerging trends over future years,” said Gill Fine, director of Consumer Choice and Dietary Health at the F.S.A. “The evidence from this and from further surveys will help us and other government departments formulate policy to address the issues that have been raised.

“It’s good news that the survey suggests around a third of the population is eating five portions of fruit and vegetables each day, and it’s encouraging to see that these initial findings suggest slightly lower intakes of saturated fat and added sugars than in previous surveys. However, there is obviously a way to go before we are meeting all the government’s dietary recommendations.”

The N.D.N.S. rolling program is a continuous cross-sectional survey of the food consumption, nutrient intakes and nutritional status of people ages 1.5 years and older in the United Kingdom. The program is being carried out by a consortium of organizations led by the National Center for Social Research, the MRC Human Nutrition Research, and the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Royal Free in the UCL Medical School.

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