Scottish dietary survey reveals vitamin D worry

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Low vitamin D status could be a worry for Scottish health, according to the new NDNS data.
Low vitamin D status could be a worry for Scottish health, according to the new NDNS data.

Related tags Nutrition

A significant proportion of Scottish adults and children show evidence of low vitamin D levels, according to new data from the UK national diet and nutrition survey (NDNS).

The new data, which follows publication of the general UK wide NDNS survey earlier this year, investigates the nutritional status and food intakes of Scotland – finding that the intakes of key foods (including: meat, oily fish, confectionery, biscuits, cakes and pastries) and nutrients (including: energy, total fat, saturated fats, trans fats, sugars, protein, vitamins and minerals) were generally very similar in Scotland to those in the UK as a whole.

“The only consistent differences in intakes across the age/sex groups were for vegetables and fibre which were slightly lower in Scotland compared to the UK,”​ said the NDNS report summary. “Other small differences tended to be in a less healthy direction for Scotland.”

While the analyses did not identify new nutritional problems specific to the Scottish population, it did confirm previous findings that both Scotland and the UK population are consuming too much saturated fat, non-milk extrinsic sugars (NMES – also known as ‘added sugars’ or ‘free sugars’) and salt. It also indicated that the population was not consuming enough fruit and vegetables, oil rich fish and non-starch polysaccharides.

“Blood analyses showed evidence of low vitamin D status in a proportion of adults and children across the UK, with a higher proportion in Scotland for most age groups compared to the UK,”​ said the report.

Scotland in focus

The National Diet and Nutrition Survey estimates food consumption, nutrient intake and nutritional status of the general population aged 18 months upwards living in the UK in general.

The most recent UK report covering years 1 to 4 (2008 to 2011) was published by Public Health England on in May 2014. However, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in Scotland funded a boost of the NDNS from years 2008-2012 to provide representative data for Scotland.

Increased sample sizes have also been funded in Wales and Northern Ireland by the Devolved Administration and will be published as separate reports.

The Scotland report covers the same topics as the main UK report including food consumption, use of dietary supplements, intakes of energy, macronutrients, vitamins, minerals, salt intake and biochemical measures of nutritional status.

Key findings

The Scottish NDNS reported that the lowest income group had a lower consumption of fruits and vegetables, fibre and some vitamins and minerals and a higher consumption of NMES in children.

The report found that the average intake for most vitamins from food sources were close to or above the Reference Nutrient Intake for all age and sex groups in Scotland - except for vitamin D which was below the RNI for children aged 1.5 to 3 years and for adults aged 65 years and over, and folate which was below the RNI for girls aged 11 to 18 years.

“There was evidence of low vitamin D status (as indicated by low plasma 25-hydroxy vitamin D (25-OHD) concentrations in blood) in all age groups,”​ stated the report. “Based on results collected over the whole year to take account of seasonal differences, 32% of adults aged 19 to 64 years, 29% of adults aged 65 years and over, 26% of children aged 11-18 years and 9% of children aged 4-10 years had low status. This compares with 23%, 21%, 22% and 14% respectively for the same age groups across the UK.”

Mean salt intakes for all age groups in Scotland exceeded the recommended maximum intakes in all cases except for children aged 7 to 10 years, said the report – revealing that mean intake for children aged 7 to 10 years and 11 to 18 years was 4.9g per day and 6.7g per day respectively, while mean salt intake for adults aged 19 to 64 years and 65 years and over was 8.2g per day and 7.3g per day respectively.

“The mean salt intake for adults aged 19 to 64 years in Scotland was similar to that for adults in England (from a 2011 survey of adults),34 and mean salt intakes for children and older adults were similar to the same age groups in the UK,”​ the report stated.

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