British Journal of Nutrition

Human and Clinical Nutrition

Dietary surveys indicate vitamin intakes below recommendations are common in representative Western countries

Barbara Troescha1 c1, Birgit Hoefta1, Michael McBurneya2, Manfred Eggersdorfera1 and Peter Webera1

a1 DSM Nutritional Products Limited, Wurmisweg 576, 4303 Kaiseraugst, Switzerland

a2 DSM Nutritional Products Limited, 45 Waterview Boulevard, Parsippany, NJ, USA


Vitamins play a crucial role in health, but modern lifestyles may lead to suboptimal intakes even in affluent countries. The aim of the present study is to review vitamin intakes in Germany, the UK, The Netherlands and the USA and to compare them with respective national recommendations. Data on adults from the most recently published national dietary intake surveys for the first three countries and data for adults from the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2003 to 2008 for the USA were used as a basis for the analysis. The proportions of the populations with intakes below recommendations were categorised as < 5, 5–25, >25–50, >50–75 and >75 % for each vitamin. The data generated are presented in a ‘traffic light display’, using colours from green to red to indicate degrees of sufficiency. The trends found were compared with the results from the European Nutrition and Health Report 2009, even though in that report, only information on mean intakes in the different countries was available. We showed that, although inter-country differences exist, intakes of several vitamins are below recommendations in a significant part of the population in all these countries. The most critical vitamin appears to be vitamin D and the least critical niacin. The variation between the countries is most probably due to differences in recommendations, levels of fortification and local dietary habits. We show that a gap exists between vitamin intakes and requirements for a significant proportion of the population, even though diverse foods are available. Ways to correct this gap need to be investigated.

(Received February 17 2012)

(Accepted March 06 2012)

(Online publication June 13 2012)


c1 Corresponding author: B. Troesch, fax +41 61 815 80 50, email


† Both authors contributed equally to this work.

Abbreviations: IOM, Institute of Medicine; NHANES, US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey