Low Income Diet and Nutrition Survey
The Low Income Diet and Nutrition Survey (LIDNS) was commissioned by the Food Standards Agency. It provides strong, nationally representative, evidence on the eating habits, nourishment and nutrition-related health of people on low income. It also assesses the effect of lifestyle and a range of other factors on these things.
LIDNS was carried out by a consortium of three organisations. It was led by the Health Research Group at the National Centre for Social Research, including the Nutritional Sciences Research Division at King’s College London, and the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the Royal Free and University College London Medical School.
Why it was carried out
The aim of the survey is to provide evidence that will contribute to the development of food policy, which in turn will help to reduce health inequalities.
- to provide information on food and nutrient intakes
- evaluate the extent to which the diets of the low income population vary from expert recommendations
- provide physical measurements of health-related factors closely associated with diet, such as height, weight and blood pressure for a representative sample
- assess levels of physical activity
- provide basic information on smoking and oral health in relation to diet
- examine possible relationships between diet and risk of disease in later life.
How many took part?
A total of 3,728 people from 2,477 households were included in the survey.
How were people chosen?
The aim was to identify approximately the bottom 15% of the population in terms of material deprivation. A doorstep questionnaire was developed that helped measure material deprivation.
Collecting the information
Key stages consisted of:
- a face-to-face interview and self-completed questionnaire
- four 24-hour recalls of diet on random days (including at least one weekend day) within a 10-day period
- physical measurements, indicating height, weight and blood pressure
- a blood sample was requested for those aged eight years old and over, to measure indicators of nutritional status.
Has this survey achieved its aims, how will the results be used?
LIDNS was successful in sampling low income households within the UK population.
It is the most comprehensive survey of its kind in the UK and provides, for the first time in one dataset, a wealth of information on eating habits, nourishment and the factors affecting these.
Data from the survey will be used by the Agency, other Government departments and non-Government bodies to understand and address barriers to healthy eating by low income groups.
Where can I get further information on healthy eating?
Information and advice on healthy eating are available on our eatwell website
- For many foods, the types and quantities eaten by people on low income appeared similar to those of the general population. Where differences did exist, they were often consistent across different age groups.
- Generally, those on low income were less likely to eat wholemeal bread and vegetables. They tended to drink more soft drinks (not diet drinks) and eat more processed meats, whole milk and sugar.
- For men and women, consumption of pasta, pizza, burgers and kebabs, chips, fried and roast potatoes, crisps and savoury snacks and carbonated soft drinks (not diet) decreased with increasing age. Consumption of wholegrain and high fibre breakfast cereals, tended to increase with increasing age.
- The majority of fat spreads used by the low income population were not polyunsaturated.
- Children were more likely than adults to eat sausages, coated chicken and turkey and burgers and kebabs.
Fruit and vegetables
The average number of fruit and vegetable portions eaten daily was: men 2.4, women 2.5, boys 1.6, girls 2.0. Like the general population, this is well below the Government’s recommendation to eat at least five portions a day.
The numbers of underweight people were low (2%). However, large percentages (62% of men and 63% of women) were overweight or obese, in about the same proportion as in the population at large.
Non-milk extrinsic sugars (NMES), sometimes called 'free sugars,' are one of the different types of sugars. These include the sugar we buy in shops and the sugars that are added to some foods and drinks, especially cakes, biscuits, sweets, squashes and sugary fizzy drinks. NMES are also found in fruit juice. Consuming too much of these sugars can cause tooth decay.
NMES intake accounted for 14% and 17% of food energy for adults and children respectively – in excess of the recommendation of not more than 11%.
In adults, the main sources of NMES were table sugar, preserves and confectionery (35%, of which table sugar contributed 22%). In children, the main source of NMES was soft drinks (not diet) which provided over one-quarter of intake in children aged 2–10 and over one-third in children aged 11–18.
In common with the general population, mean daily intake of protein exceeded recommended levels in all sex and age groups.
The protein providers in adults and children were: meat and meat products (37% and 34% respectively), followed by cereals and cereal products (23% and 25% respectively) and milk and milk products (17% and 19% respectively).
Total fat intakes as a proportion of food energy were broadly similar to those in the general population and at about the UK dietary recommendation. However, intakes of saturated fatty acids were above recommended levels.
Mean daily intake of total fat was 79.1g for men, 59.4g for women, 76.7g for boys and 67.0g for girls. These correspond to percentages of food energy from total fat of 35.9%, 35.2%, 36.1% and 35.7%, respectively.
The main contributors to total fat intake in adults’ diets were meat and meat products (24%), cereals and cereal products (18%), milk and milk products (15%), fat spreads (15%), potatoes & savoury snacks (9%).
In contrast to adults, children obtained a higher proportion of fat intake from potatoes and savoury snacks (19% vs 9%) and confectionery (6% vs 3%) but a lower proportion from fat spreads (10% vs 15%).
As in the general population, mean intakes of saturated fat exceeded the recommendation of not more than 11% of food energy in all age groups. This was most noticeably in adults aged 65 and over and children aged 2–10 years.
Trans fatty acids
Intakes of trans fatty acids as a percentage of food energy were below the recommendation of not more than 2% in adults and children.
Cereal and cereal products were the largest source of non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) for adults and children, providing 37% and 38% of intake respectively. Among adults, 51% of men and 69% of women fell short of the minimum recommended intake 18g per day.
Vitamins and minerals
- Average daily intakes of all vitamins from food sources, with the exception of vitamins A and D, were above or close to the required recommended intake for men and women in all age groups.
- Intakes of many minerals also met recommendations. However, average intakes of total iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc fell below requirements for a large proportion of respondents (mostly women for iron).
- There was evidence of inadequate levels of iron, folate and vitamin D.
This pattern of intakes is broadly similar to the wider population.
Adults and children both got one-third of their sodium intake (excluding salt added at the table or in cooking) from cereals and cereal products, the largest single contributor to which was white bread (12%). The survey was only able to measure sodium/salt from food sources, so the figures below almost certainly underestimate total salt intake.
Mean daily consumption of salt from food sources only (because the methods used could not quantify salt added in cooking or at the table) was in men about 7g, and in women 5g. It is likely that true salt intake (taking into account salt added to food) will be in excess of the target of no more than 6g per day for both men and women.
Health effects of poor diet
Eating a lot without taking enough exercise can lead to weight gain and, ultimately, obesity.
With obesity comes a substantially increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, some cancers and osteoarthritis. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that diets low in fruits, vegetables and pulses are associated with an increased risk of cancer and heart disease.
High salt consumption is linked to increased blood pressure and this is a risk factor for coronary heart disease. Saturated fats are the main dietary factor in increased blood cholesterol. 61% of men and 65% of women had raised cholesterol at levels linked with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
Frequent consumption of foods high in sugars increases the risk of tooth decay.
A number of points emerged, although there were no consistent associations between these and overall diet:
- About 80% of this group did their main shopping at a large supermarket. About 50% had access to a private car for shopping
- Men and women with a lower level of educational achievement tended to have a ‘less healthy’ diet than men and women with more education. Men and women with less education ate fewer vegetables and more chips, fried and roast potatoes. Less educated women also consumed less fruit and fruit juice.
- 30% of men and 29% of women reported that price/value/money available for food was the most important influence on their choice of food. Thirty-five percent of men and 44% of women wanted to change their diet. 60% of parents/carers wanted to change their children’s diet.
- 91% of women reported they could cook a meal from basic ingredients without help; for men this was 64%.
- Approximately 80% of boys and girls aged 11–17 reported they had cookery lessons at school, during which most of them had prepared food.
Spending on food and drink
Mean weekly spending on food and drink (including eating out, but excluding alcoholic drinks) was just under £30 for one-adult households, just over £50 for households containing two or more adults, £55–£65 for households with one adult and one or more children, and £80–£90 for households with two or more adults and one or more children.
The median was comparable to the findings of DEFRA’s Expenditure and Food Survey (2004/05) which reported spending of £28 per person per week.
The report is available to download at the links below as a series of pdf documents.
Should you require a printed copy this can be purchased from the TSO online bookshop. A link to the relevant page is provided below.