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DSM presents dietary vitamin intakes using ‘traffic lights’ which suggest widespread inadequacies in the Western World

Kaiseraugst, CH, 20 Jun 2012 12:00 CEST

A new assessment published in the British Journal of Nutrition suggests that three quarters of the population in Germany, the UK, and the USA, does not meet the dietary intake recommendations of the respective countries for a number of essential micronutrients. Based on large-scale population-based national dietary intake surveys, scientists at DSM evaluated data using a traffic light system to measure actual intakes against national recommendations in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and the USA.

A red light was assigned where more than 75% of the population has an intake status lower than the nationally recommended level. The results show that in Germany, the UK and the USA, Vitamin D has a red light status, indicating that at least three quarters of the population have a poor vitamin D intake, and are not meeting recommended intakes.

Vitamin D is vital to bone health and muscle strength, and it can reduce the risk of falls and fractures linked to Osteoporosis by 20%. It is also essential for children in the prevention of rickets.

Vitamin E was also branded with a red light in the UK and the USA, indicating that more can be done in these countries to raise intake levels to those recommended by national public health experts.

Vitamin B9 (folate), which is especially important for pregnant women, was given a red light in Germany; Vitamin A also received a red light in the USA.

Of the countries monitored, the Netherlands fared best, with fewer red lights than Germany, the UK and the USA. The variation between countries is most likely due to differences in recommendations, levels of fortification, and local dietary habits.

2012 is the 100 year anniversary of vitamins, and although diets have improved overall during this time, this research highlights that population-wide vitamin intake inadequacies still exist even in the Western World where plenty of food is available.

In recent decades, changing diets and lifestyles, and a shift towards fast or convenience foods with a lower density of vitamins and minerals, may be one of the factors involved. It is possible that many people who do not receive the recommended intakes are not aware of their deficiencies.

Commenting on this traffic light display, Dr. Manfred Eggersdorfer, DSM Senior Vice-President for Nutrition and Science Advocacy, commented: “Vitamins play a vital role in the diet, delivering long term benefits to health, and yet this research highlights that 100 years after their discovery there are still major gaps that urgently need closing – to improve people’s long term health and to drive down healthcare costs.”