1 in 3 in UK suffer hidden hunger. Average UK diet is deficient.

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1 in 3 in UK suffer hidden hunger. Average UK diet is deficient.

1 in 3 in UK suffer hidden hunger

So the National Health Service tells us to eat a healthy and balanced diet. 5-a-day, sound familiar? Are you eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables every day? Managing at least two portions of fish a week, including one portion of oily fish? Did you know the UK Government did a nutrition reality check? The average UK diet is deficient in 6 nutrients. Before we find out what the average person is deficient in, let me explain why so many people are hungry and don’t even know it.


Hidden Hunger


“Hidden Hunger affects more than two billion people. Even when a person consumes adequate calories and protein, if they lack one single micronutrient, or a combination of vitamins and minerals, their immune system is compromised and infections take hold.”

– World Food Programme (WFP) 2007.


People can be malnourished but the symptoms are less visible – but no less morbid. They are usually the result of vitamin and mineral deficiencies (micronutrients), which can lead to things like anaemia, mental impairment, poor health and productivity. Long term diseases are on the increase. Even in modern societies like the United Kingdom where people live longer, half of women and 43% of men have health problems that require prescription drugs on a daily basis.


We know the human body needs sufficient nutrients for optimum health. But due to environmental degradation, soil depleting farming methods, food processing, and diet choices, a lot of people don’t achieve adequate nutrition even if they have food on the table. Nutrition is being neglected in favour of a full stomach.


UK Nutrition reality check:


So the government published a National Diet and Nutrition Survey in 2009-2012. Let’s get straight to the point.


The average UK diet for all age groups over 12 years old is at least deficient in


These were just the common deficiencies, different age groups were also deficient in other nutrients. And the deficiencies were consistent amongst all income groups. The average consumption of fruit and vegetables, non-starch polysaccharides and oily fish were below NHS recommendations.


So much for “most people SHOULD get all the nutrients they need by eating a varied and balanced diet”. A lot of people DON’T get all the nutrients they need, an unfortunate fact. As people store up health problems for the future that will impact adversely on people’s health with an unaffordable cost to our economy, the one thought that enrages the mind is the fact that most of this is wholly preventable!


Nutrients and their roles


Let’s take a quick tour through the human body and see what these commonly deficient nutrients are responsible for.



Iron forms the molecules that carry oxygen in the blood, so symptoms of a deficiency include tiredness and lethargy. Iron deficiency also impedes cognitive development. Lack of iron in large segments of the population severely damages a country’s productivity. Iron deficiency is the most prevalent form of malnutrition worldwide, affecting millions of people.

Iron contributes to normal function of immune system and has a role in the process of cell division.



Selenium is an essential trace element. It forms part of the structure of certain proteins, and plays a key role in a number of metabolic processes including antioxidant systems and thyroid hormone metabolism. Selenium contributes to immunity, normal spermatogenesis and maintenance of normal hair and nails.  There are well-confirmed pathological syndromes associated with selenium deficiency as well as selenium toxicity.



Magnesium helps reduce tiredness and fatigue. It contributes to electrolyte balance, energy-yielding metabolism, the nervous system, normal muscle and as well as psychological function. Magnesium has a role in cell division, making proteins, maintaining normal bones and teeth.



Potassium helps your nervous system and muscles to function properly.

It also helps maintain a normal blood pressure.


Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)

This vitamin is involved in energy-yielding metabolism, nervous system function, and iron metabolism.

It helps maintain mucous membranes, red blood cells, skin and vision. Riboflavin also helps protect cells from oxidative stress and last but not least it helps reduce tiredness and fatigue.


Vitamin D

We can obtain Vitamin D from a few foods and our skin can produce it when exposed to ultraviolet rays from the sun. You can see why the clouded UK population may be deficient in Vitamin D. This vitamin helps our body to absorb and use calcium and phosphorus for processes like maintaining bones, teeth and muscle function. It also has a role in cell division and this is why fast-dividing cells in the immune system can be compromised by Vitamin D deficiencies


There’s obviously more to it than what we covered on this quick tour. But I hope you begin to realise how some missing nutrients can impact on our body condition and our lives. How many pieces in the puzzle may be missing from your perfect picture of health and beauty?


What do you think? Knowledge worth sharing? Leave a comment. Ask a question.


Featuring nutrients deficient in the average UK diet


Foresight. The Future of Food and Farming (2011). Final Project Report. The Government Office for Science, London.

National Diet and Nutrition Survey. Results from Years 1-4 (combined) of the Rolling Programme (2008/2009 – 2011/12).

The Health Survey for England 2013.

EU Register on nutrition and health claims.


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Showing 10 comments
  • Katie

    Insightful! What are non-starch polysaccharides?

  • feelgood island

    Thanks Katie.

    Non starch polysaccharide simply means fibre. Fibre is not absorbed by the body but is needed to help maintain a healthy digestive system. There are two types of fibre:

    Soluble fibre – found in fruit, vegetables, pulses and oats. It helps to reduce blood cholesterol.

    Insoluble fibre – found in cereal such as bread and pasta. It helps to stimulate the digestive system

  • Rob

    Is this for real? I don’t eat oily fish because I this fish allergy.

  • feelgood island

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for your question.
    You can click on the 158 page document here National Diet and Nutrition Survey. If you have a fish allergy, you may miss out on Omega 3 oils, but you may be able to take an algae omega 3 supplement!

  • Justine Wagner

    Good article. It’s made me think twice about what I eat.

  • feelgood island

    That’s right Justine. It’s not always easy getting all the nutrients we need in this modern society where some diets may be restrictive.

  • H Smith

    A bit of an eye opener. Does this mean a third of people are always sick? Good luck for the next article!

  • feelgood island

    Hi, good question. No, 1 in 3 do not always have infections or medical problems. But 1 in 3 may have higher risk of infection or recover slower. Your function may be sub optimal depending on which nutrient is deficient.

  • Mikyl

    I used to suffer reoccurring infections. It was going on for weeks. The doctor recommended blood tests. Turned out I was vitamin d deficient. GP prescribed vitamin d and after a few weeks I felt much better. Noticed that your vitamins contain it too plus plenty of other vitamins and minerals. They look good, I think I will start taking them myself 🙂

  • feelgood island

    That’s right. Our Energy & Wellbeing formula has Vitamin D 5mcg, we’ve formulated it with other great nutrients to make supplementing simple. Check with your Doctor or pharmacist if your prescribed Vitamin D is okay to take ontop of our supplement. In general, a total of 25mcg daily is OK for autumn and winter. Public Health England recommend 10mcg daily.

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