National diet and nutrition surveys: the British experience

Public Health Nutr. 2006 Jun;9(4):523-30. doi: 10.1079/phn2005874.


Objective: The National Diet and Nutrition Surveys (NDNS) are a series of government-funded surveys of food intake, nutrient intake and nutritional status of individuals, undertaken to support nutritional policy and risk assessment. This paper summarises a review that considered the extent to which NDNS met the needs of users and suggested options for the future. The Food Standards Agency has since progressed favoured options. This paper aims to help others wishing to obtain this type of information within their own populations.

Design: A detailed questionnaire was used to probe use of data and gather opinions from users, producers and managers of the NDNS. It asked about general information needs from NDNS and changes that might be made. This was followed by a two-day workshop which included discussion of the main issues and the generation of 19 possible future options for consideration by the Agency.

Results: Options to improve effectiveness included methods to prioritise breadth and depth of coverage and possible ways of improving response and compliance. Strategies to make surveys more efficient and timely, such as adopting a rolling programme, disaggregating survey components, integrating with other studies and improving data access, were also suggested. A rolling programme, in which data are collected continuously, was the favoured option to address some of the concerns and a strategy is now in place to achieve this.

Conclusions: There is widespread support for the NDNS from its users. There is no alternative source for such high-quality data on food and nutrient consumption and nutritional status and physical measurements in the same individuals. Useful information, such as the potential value of using a rolling programme from the outset, can be gained from this British experience by others wishing to measure food and nutrient intakes and status in their own populations.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet Surveys*
  • Federal Government
  • Humans
  • Nutrition Assessment*
  • Nutrition Policy*
  • Nutrition Surveys*
  • Nutritional Status
  • Risk Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards*
  • United Kingdom