Teen girl diet could cost NHS millions

Teenage eating habits are poor, with teenage girls worse, risking long-term effects on their health according to new Department of Health data published today.

The National Diet and Nutrition Survey, which was led by the National Centre for Social Research and MRC Human Nutrition Research, found that teenage girls are only eating half their recommended portions of fruit and veg.  And just 56 per cent of teenage girls are getting enough iron in their diet. This could lead to them becoming ill far more often, and much more likely to be hit by diseases such as cancer and hear disease – which could mean the NHS being put under further strain.

While both teenage boys and girls are failing to get their recommended 5-a-day of fruit and veg, girls eat on average half a portion less each day than boys. The findings build on previous surveys and highlight that poor eating habits risk storing up a number of potential problems for later life, such as heart disease and some cancers.

However, the survey did find younger children’s eating habits are improving with parents taking positive steps to give their kids a healthier diet with fewer sweets, fizzy drinks, chocolate, and also switching them to high-fibre cereals.

Other key findings from the survey include:

• only a third of adults are getting their 5-a-day;
• intake of saturated fat and sugar are still too high;
• more adults are switching from whole milk towards lower fat versions; and
• trans-fats intake is now significantly below recommended levels.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said:

“It is really important that teenagers eat a balanced diet – including eating five portions of fruit and veg a day. Eating well and being active can help prevent serious illnesses such as cancer and heart disease later in life.

“For tips on what makes up your 5-a-day and how to be more active, visit the Change4Life website.”

Health Minister, Paul Burstow said:

“Over the summer, our Change4Life campaign will encourage families to take simple steps, such as eating more fruit and vegetables, cutting down on fatty foods and being more active.

“We want people to know that they can change what they do and make a difference to their health. Over the last ten years, we have not seen the improvements we should have. That is why the Government is using new ways to achieve better results including bringing together key partners in charity and businesses to help people to make healthier choices. This will help us to move further and faster on issues like obesity.”

Dr Alison Lennox, one of the nutrition experts involved with NDNS said:

”We are seeing small but encouraging signs of healthy eating in the UK – more fruit and vegetables and less soft drinks and confectionery, especially by children – but we have a long way to go.  Our saturated fat intakes are still too high.”