Public Health Nutrition

Research Article

Socio-economic determinants of selected dietary indicators in British pre-school children

Richard G Watta1 c1, Joanna Dykesa1 and Aubrey Sheihama1

a1 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Royal Free Hospital and University College London Medical School, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK


Objectives: To assess the proportion of pre-school children meeting reference nutrient intakes (RNIs) and recommendations for daily intakes of iron, zinc, vitamins C and A, and energy from non-milk extrinsic sugars. To assess whether meeting these five dietary requirements was related to a series of socio-economic variables.

Design: Secondary analysis of data on daily consumption of foods and drinks from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) of children aged 1.5–4.5 years based on 4-day weighed intakes.

Subjects: One thousand six hundred and seventy-five British pre-school children aged 1.5–4.5 years in 1993.

Results: Only 1% of children met all five RNIs/recommendations examined; 76% met only two or fewer. Very few children met the recommendations for intakes of zinc (aged over four years) and non-milk extrinsic sugars (all ages). The number of RNIs/recommendations met was related to measures of socio-economic class. Children from families in Scotland and the North of England, who had a manual head of household and whose mothers had fewest qualifications, met the least number of RNIs/recommendations.

Conclusions: Very few pre-school children have diets that meet all the RNIs and recommendations for iron, zinc, vitamins C and A, and energy from non-milk extrinsic sugars. Dietary adequacy with respect to these five parameters is related to socio-economic factors. The findings emphasise the need for a range of public health policies that focus upon the social and economic determinants of food choice within families.

(Received November 02 1999)

(Accepted May 30 2001)