The recently published National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) suggests that intakes of minerals are worryingly low amongst Britons, and none more so than adolescents. The government’s food watchdog, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) gave 1000 adults and children over 4 years old a 4-day diet diary and the results were compared with UK dietary recommendations.
Girls between the ages of 11 and 18 had particularly worrying diets; instead of eating foods essential for growth and good health, they favoured foods and drinks high in sugar and fat such as processed foods, sweets and chocolate and fizzy drinks. Less than 7% teenage girls ate the recommended 5 daily portions of fruit or veg.
As a result, teenage girls get insufficient iron, iodine and calcium and both boys and girls are low in magnesium and potassium. 46% of girls had intakes of iron and magnesium below the Lower Reference Nutrient Intake (LRNI) (a level at which deficiency is likely) and 26% boys had intakes of magnesium below the LRNI. As teenagers gain more freedom from the family home, they often slip into bad habits. The FSA has launched a magazine called Blink on Facebook to attempt to reach this group.
Despite government recommendations that children do not drink any alcohol, the survey found that 4% of boys aged 13-15 years and 12% of girls of the same age usually drank alcohol once a week or more.
Adults also had low intakes of minerals. One fifth of men and half of all women failed to meet LRNI for selenium; the cancer busting antioxidant. One fifth of women fail to reach the LRNI for iron, leaving them at risk of anaemia and 67% of men and women fail to meet the 5 a day target.
Omega 3 fats were also low in the diets surveyed; 140g oily fish is recommended each week to stave off cognitive decline and inflammatory conditions such as eczema and arthritis. The survey showed that adults, on average, ate just 8g per week.
Speaking in the Guardian, Richard Watts, of the health charity Sustain suggests that tough rules imposed by the Government are most effective in improving diets, such as those dictating what goes into school dinners. Meanwhile, junk food marketing continues to negatively influence Britons whose health is at risk from vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
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