Meat Advisory Panel's comment on teenage girls risking health

New government data(1) has shown a substantial proportion of girls aged 11-18 years are risking their health with intake of minerals well below the Lower Reference Nutrient Intake (LRNI), together with consuming low levels of vitamins.

The National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) found 44 per cent of girls aged 11-18 years and 22 per cent of women aged 19-64 years had mean iron intakes of below the LRNI. Teenage girls are also only eating half their recommended portions of fruit and vegetables.

The NDNS is a continuous cross-sectional survey, designed to assess the diet, nutrient intake and nutritional status of the general population aged 18 months upwards living in private households in the UK. The NDNS involves an interview, a four-day dietary diary and blood and urine samples.

Furthermore, the results revealed mean intakes of magnesium, potassium, zinc and selenium were below the Reference Nutrient Intake (RNI) for children with 50 per cent of teenage girls having magnesium intake below the LRNI. Mean intakes of vitamin D were lower across most age and sex groups, adding to the ongoing deficiency.  

Dr Carrie Ruxton, member of the Meat Advisory Panel (MAP), said: “These new data confirm once again that significant numbers of teenage girls are compromising their health because of a lack of iron in their diets.  By limiting their intake of iron-rich foods, such as red meat, girls are doubly disadvantaged in health terms.  A low iron status can cause anaemia, which may lead to fatigue and poor cognitive function, therefore affecting teenagers’ ability to study for examinations.”

Most people in the UK obtain the majority of their vitamin D by exposure of skin to sunlight(2).  Low vitamin D levels are now common in the UK and many do not obtain enough vitamin D through sunlight exposure.  As there are few dietary sources of vitamin D3, red meat plays an important part of your diet as it contains easily utilised vitamin D. 

For more information and advice on the role of meat in your diet please click here.

REFERENCES

(1) B Bates, A Lennox, C Bates, G Swan. National Diet and Nutrition Survey: Headline results from Years 1 and 2 (combined) of the Rolling Programme (2008/2009 – 2009/10). Department of Health and Food Standards Agency.
(2) Department of Health (1998). Nutrition and Bone Health; with particular reference to calcium and vitamin D. 49. London: The Stationery Office.

The Meat Advisory Panel (MAP) is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from EBLEX and BPEX.