The question perhaps to ask is “are we getting enough vitamins?” as the ‘Health of the Nation’ 2014 survey results are out. The survey is commissioned each year by the HFMA (Health Food Manufacturers’ Association), and more than 10,000 adults were asked a range of questions on nutrition, diet and health matters.
A summary of the survey in pdf form is provided below. And hopefully it will offer all of you reading this with some information of value and interest – for both people who care about their health, and health professionals too. The survey does give a valuable snapshot and insight into the health ’habits’ and knowledge of the adult population.
And the survey results were widely reported in the mainstream media.
A focus of part of the survey was peoples habits and perceptions in regards to taking nutritional supplements. And the feedback is that an increasing number of us are taking a supplement with more than half of the adult population (55%) doing so. And optimistically 63% of respondents thought that supplements may have a positive role to play as part of a healthy lifestyle.
A more worrying statistic was that “only 6% of adults in the UK understand government recommendations on vitamins and minerals (a 76% decrease from 2012)”. This seems most disappointing considering the UK health authority efforts to educate on the importance (for example) of vitamin D for children, the elderly and pregnant; or folic acid* in pregnancy.
Supplements for Deficiencies
Following on from this topic it was intriguing to see that “Of those that take supplements, almost a third (33%) did so for their general health and wellbeing, whilst the second biggest reason was deficiency, with 14% taking supplements for deficiencies”. So it was at least encouraging that some people recognise the importance of avoiding nutritional deficiencies and act to negate this.
It was encouraging that one survey result was: “Nearly two-thirds (64%) of women said they’d plan to take supplements during a future pregnancy”. However one might also feel disappointment here as nutrition is so vital in pregnancy and breastfeeding – for both mother and child. In a perfect scenario this statistic would be 100% as the UK Department of Health currently state: “Women who are planning a pregnancy or might become pregnant, or who are already pregnant, should also take a folic acid* and vitamin D supplements”.
One particular nutrient that the survey focused on was vitamin D. And perhaps no surprises on this focus as the vitamin has a range of health benefits at all stages of life, it is included in several UK Government recommendations, and it attracts a good deal of mainstream media attention. However worryingly the survey highlighted that a majority of parents were not giving their children a relevant supplement when recommended to do so by the UK health authority.
In this example for vitamin D, which is needed for normal growth and development of bone in children, the vitamin is recommended as a supplement for children aged 6 months to 5 years. Yet more than half of parents were unaware of the advice and again more than half were not doing so. In 2012 the Chief Medical Officer for England raised concerns that cases of rickets were on the rise in children due to vitamin D deficiency. And rickets is just one of many potentially serious ailments that can result from ongoing insufficient vitamin D intake.
Certain nutrients are essential for bone development from birth, and supporting bone health throughout life. Calcium**, vitamin D, Magnesium and vitamin K being prime examples. And as we age avoiding deficiency in such nutrients is of paramount importance as Osteoporosis becomes a greater risk. The UK health authority recommends vitamin D supplements for those aged 65+ for example.
Unfortunately the survey highlighted a lack of understanding in this important matter too:
“Only half (of those surveyed) think it is particularly important to have sufficient intake of vitamin D for bone health in childhood and only 57% think it important for infancy, whilst only a third believe vitamin D is important for adults aged 80+.” Whilst: “To help reduce the loss of bone later in life, only 57% recognised Calcium as important.”
You can also download the PDF document with the following link: 2014-HFMA-HOTN-survey.pdf
The National Diet and Nutrition Survey
It was a week of important surveys as the Government’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey revealed that despite concerted efforts such as the ‘five-a-day’ message the nations eating habits were worryingly mixed. This was how it was reported in the Guardian (link to full story below):
“Only 10 per cent of teenage boys and 7 per cent of teenage girls manage to get their five portions of fruit and veg a day. Adults do not fare a great deal better. Only a third get their five-a-day and the diet of the average adult exceeds recommended sugar limits by 10 per cent. The report, the Government’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey, also shows that children aged ten and under typically exceed the recommended daily limit of sugar by 34 per cent. Their main sources of sugar are fruit juice, soft drinks, cereal bars, biscuits and cakes. It reveals that adults are eating half the recommended weekly amount of oily fish – which protects against heart disease, cancer and dementia – while teenagers and children only manage a fifth of this amount.”
If you have any questions regarding this article, any of the health topics raised, or any other health matters please do contact me (Amanda) by phone or email at any time.
* For supplementation of folic acid we only recommend methylfolate. Methylfolate (5MTHF) is the most stable, safe and bioeffective form of folate. Read our article on folic acid and methylfolate: Cytoplan Blog: Methylfolate
** There are reservations and concerns for calcium supplementation, particularly in more mature age groups and especially for men. You can read in detail about this in the following article: Cytoplan Blog: Menopause and Osteoporosis