National Diet and Nutrition Survey Report for Northern Ireland

The National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) estimates food consumption, nutrient intake and nutritional status of the general population aged 18 months upwards living in the UK. Boosted samples were gathered 2008 – 2012 in order to achieve representative data specific for NI. The results for NI have been released on 12 February 2015 as an Official Statistic and were updated on 29 Aug 2017.
Study duration: April 2008 to June 2012
Project code: FS526001
Contractor: Public Health England (Main contractor)


The NDNS provides high quality data on the types and quantities of foods consumed by individuals from which estimates of average nutrient intakes for the population are derived. The UK NDNS was mainly funded by FSA until 2010 and it is now jointly funded by Public Health England (PHE) and the FSA. The most recent UK report covering years 1 to 4 (2008 to 2012) was published by PHE on 14 May 2014: UK NDNS Data. This was followed by the Scotland report for the equivalent time period, released as an Official Statistic by the FSA in Scotland (FSAS) on 24 September 2014 . Increased sample sizes were also funded in Wales, with a separate report from Wales expected later this year.

The Northern Ireland report covers the same topics as the main UK report including food consumption, use of dietary supplements, intakes of energy, macronutrients, vitamins, minerals, salt intake and biochemical measures of nutritional status.

The Northern Ireland boost has been co-funded by three partners: the FSA in NI; the Department of Health (DoH); and safefood.

Research Approach

The NDNS Survey is carried out by a consortium of three organisations: National Centre for Social Research (NatCen Social Research), MRC Human Nutrition Research (HNR) and the University College London Medical School (UCL).

The participants were recruited from a random sample of Northern Ireland addresses drawn from the Postcode Address File. For each household the selected individuals were asked to complete a diary of food and drink consumption over four consecutive days. An interview was conducted to collect background information on dietary habits, socio-demographic status, lifestyle and physical activity. Participants who agreed to a nurse visit were then asked to provide a blood sample to assess nutritional status and those aged four years and older were asked to provide a 24-hour urine collection to assess salt intake. Physical measurements data were also collected.

The data were weighted to minimise any bias in the observed results. The mean daily intakes of energy and macronutrients such as total fat, saturated and trans fatty acids and Non-Milk Extrinsic Sugars (NMES) are provided and compared with the UK Dietary Reference Values (DRVs). In addition, population adequacy of micronutrient intake was assessed by comparing intake with the age and sex specific UK DRVs. Biochemical indices of micronutrient status from blood samples were also compared with threshold values to give an estimate of the proportion of the population at greater risk of deficiency.


This comprehensive analysis of diet and nutrition for Northern Ireland combines results from four years of the survey between 2008 and 2012 and provides a detailed picture of the diet and nutrition status of the Northern Ireland population.  The nutritional status is mostly presented for five age groups:  1½-3 years; 4–10 years; 11–18 years; 19-64 years; 65 years and over. They are split by sex in most cases except the youngest age group and people aged 65 years and over. The report also includes the heights, weights, blood pressure and socio-demographic characteristics of the participants.

Key findings

  • Fruit and vegetable consumption in Northern Ireland was significantly lower than in the UK as a whole. 82% of adults, 77% of older adults and 96% of children aged 11 to 18 years in Northern Ireland did not meet the five-a-day recommendation.
  • Mean intakes of non-starch polysaccharide (NSP) were significantly lower than those in the UK as a whole and for adults, were below the recommended level of 18g per day.
  • Mean consumption of oil-rich fish was well below the recommended one, 140g portion per week and significantly lower than in the UK as a whole.
  • Mean consumption of red and processed meat for men and boys aged 11 to 18 years exceeded the current maximum recommendation for adults.
  • Mean intakes of saturated fat exceeded recommendations in all age groups and were similar to or slightly higher than mean intakes in the UK as a whole.
  • A third of adults aged 19 to 64 years in Northern Ireland had low blood levels of vitamin D, a higher proportion than in the UK as a whole.
  • The lowest income group had lower fruit and vegetable consumption than those in the highest income group.  They also had lower intakes of NSP and some vitamins and minerals.