Food and Behaviour Research

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Nutrition, health and schoolchildren

Weichselbaum E, Buttriss J (2011) British Nutrition Foundation - Nutrition Bulletin 36, Issue 3 295-355 

Web URL: View this briefing paper at the Wiley Online Library here


Healthy eating and being physically active are particularly important for children and adolescents. This is because their nutrition and lifestyle influence their wellbeing, growth and development. The nutritional requirements of children and adolescents are high in relation to their size because of the demands for growth, in addition to requirements for body maintenance and physical activity.

Data from the National Diet and Nutrition Surveys (NDNS) show that the contribution of protein to food energy intake has increased between 1997 and 2008/2009 in both boys and girls aged 4-to-18-years. The contribution of fat to food energy intake has decreased in boys and girls aged 4-to-10-years, and in boys aged 11-to-18-years; saturated fatty acid intakes have decreased in boys and girls of both age groups. A decrease in the contribution of non-milk extrinsic sugars to food energy has been found in the younger age group, whereas it has hardly changed in the older age group.

The most recent NDNS data (Year 1 of the NDNS Rolling Programme) on micronutrient intake showed that low intakes of almost all minerals and vitamin A in boys and girls in the older age group, and also of riboflavin and folate in girls in the older age group were evident. In the younger age group, low intake of zinc was evident in boys and girls.

Data on micronutrient status is as yet only available from the 1997 NDNS. There was some evidence of poor status of riboflavin, thiamin, vitamin C, folate, vitamin D and iron. A comparison of data from the Low Income Diet and Nutrition Survey (2003–2005) and the 1997 NDNS showed that children from low-income families tended to have higher intakes of whole milk; fat spreads; meat and processed meats; and non-diet soft drinks compared with children from the general population. Intakes of wholemeal bread; buns, cakes and pastries; semi-skimmed and skimmed milk; vegetables; fruit and fruit juices; and diet soft drinks were lower in children from low-income families.