"...all doctors should be able to diagnose and treat nutritional deficiencies."

Royal College of Physicians. Nutrition and Patients: A Doctor's Responsibility. London 2002

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The Prevalence of Nutritional Deficiencies - Britain

In the UK there is a rolling programme of conducting nutritional surveys which was established in the early 1990s.  Four surveys have so far been conducted as part of the National Diet and Nutrition Surveys.  They have each been conducted using  representative samples drawn from the British population.  People in Northern Ireland were not included in these surveys.

The four NDNS surveys and the year(s) of their publication are:

The findings of each survey have been published and they provide information on:

  • The intake of macronutrients (energy, protein, fats and carbohydrates)
  • Alcohol intake
  • The intake of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids and the percentage of the population with an intake that is likely to be inadequate (below the Lower Reference Nutrient Intake for that age group)
  • Laboratory measures of nutrient status that allow a determination of the percentage of the population who are likely to be deficient
  • The prevalence of obesity and underweight
  • The use of nutritional supplements.

The surveys excluded people based in hospital, those of no fixed abode and probably severely ill people living at home.

Thus the prevalences observed in these samples may be less than those observed in patients consulting with their doctor or a therapist.

Important Note
Deficiency is defined in this section as either:

  • A total intake of a nutrient from diet and supplements that is less than the Lower Reference Nutrient Intake which by definition is an intake that is likely to be adequate for only a minority of the normal population (considered to be 2%-3%) or
  • A blood level of the nutrient below the accepted normal or reference range, which will not always be associated with an adverse effect upon health outcome to second to last “ bullet” on the second page of How Nutritional Deficiencies Develop.

In practice if either of these figures exceeds the figure of 3% in the populations studied then it is likely that there will be some public health consequences. 

The NDNS did not include any assessment of the possible impact of deficiency on the health of participants in the survey.



Copyright Dr. Alan Stewart M.B.B.S.M.R.C.P. (UK)M.F. Hom.
47 Priory Street, Lewes, East Sussex. BN7 1HJ
Tel 01273 487003 Fax: 01273 487576