Dietary surveys indicate vitamin intakes below recommendations are common in representative Western countries

Br J Nutr. 2012 Aug;108(4):692-8. doi: 10.1017/S0007114512001808. Epub 2012 Jun 13.


Vitamins play a crucial role in health, but modern lifestyles may lead to suboptimal intakes even in affluent countries. The aim of the present study is to review vitamin intakes in Germany, the UK, The Netherlands and the USA and to compare them with respective national recommendations. Data on adults from the most recently published national dietary intake surveys for the first three countries and data for adults from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2003 to 2008 for the USA were used as a basis for the analysis. The proportions of the populations with intakes below recommendations were categorised as < 5, 5-25, >25-50, >50-75 and >75 % for each vitamin. The data generated are presented in a 'traffic light display', using colours from green to red to indicate degrees of sufficiency. The trends found were compared with the results from the European Nutrition and Health Report 2009, even though in that report, only information on mean intakes in the different countries was available. We showed that, although inter-country differences exist, intakes of several vitamins are below recommendations in a significant part of the population in all these countries. The most critical vitamin appears to be vitamin D and the least critical niacin. The variation between the countries is most probably due to differences in recommendations, levels of fortification and local dietary habits. We show that a gap exists between vitamin intakes and requirements for a significant proportion of the population, even though diverse foods are available. Ways to correct this gap need to be investigated.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Avitaminosis / epidemiology
  • Avitaminosis / etiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Diet Surveys
  • Dietary Supplements / analysis
  • Female
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Policy*
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • Patient Compliance
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / epidemiology
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / etiology
  • Vitamins / administration & dosage*
  • Western World
  • Young Adult


  • Vitamins
  • Vitamin D