A study on the mineral depletion of the foods available to us as a nation over the period 1940 to 1991

Nutr Health. 2003;17(2):85-115. doi: 10.1177/026010600301700201.


In 1927 a study at King's College, University of London, of the chemical composition of foods was initiated by Dr McCance to assist with diabetic dietary guidance. The study evolved and was then broadened to determine all the important organic and mineral constituents of foods, it was financed by the Medical Research Council and eventually published in 1940. Over the next 51 years subsequent editions reflected changing national dietary habits and food laws as well as advances in analytical procedures. The most recent (5th Edition) published in 1991 has comprehensively analysed 14 different categories of foods and beverages. In order to provide some insight into any variation in the quality of the foods available to us as a nation between 1940 and 1991 it was possible to compare and contrast the mineral content of 27 varieties of vegetable, 17 varieties of fruit, 10 cuts of meat and some milk and cheese products. The results demonstrate that there has been a significant loss of minerals and trace elements in these foods over that period of time. It is suggested that the results of this study cannot be taken in isolation from recent dietary, environmental and disease trends. These trends are briefly mentioned and suggestions are made as to how the deterioration in the micronutrient quality of our food intake may be arrested and reversed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dairy Products
  • Edible Grain
  • Food Analysis*
  • Fruit
  • Humans
  • Meat / analysis
  • Minerals / analysis*
  • Nutritive Value
  • United Kingdom
  • Vegetables


  • Minerals