Scots Need to Eat More Fibre

The overall picture of diet in Scotland remains very poor. That’s the results of The Scottish Health Survey 2021 (SHeS) with fibre intake among the worst of the survey results.

In 2021, 4,557 adults and 1,600 children took part in the survey. In 2021, interviews were conducted by telephone, because of the impacts of COVID-19, so no physical measurements were taken.

The survey also found that across all adults in 2021, a lack of money or other resources in the previous 12 months resulted in: 9% of those surveyed worried about running out of food, 6% were eating less and 3% ran out of food. The highest levels of food insecurity were among single parents and single adults under the age of 65.

Diets which are high in fibre are associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and bowel cancer.

The data shows that, on average, adults consumed 17.2g of fibre per day, well below the target of 30g. Men, who typically have a higher total food intake, were more likely to achieve the target (8%), compared with women (5%).

Dr Fiona Comrie, Senior Public Health Nutrition Adviser at FSS, explained

“The Scottish diet overall isn’t where we would like it to be for the health of the nation. Results pointing to a lack of fibre particularly stand out from this year’s survey and are concerning as we know that a lack of fibre contributes to poor health.

“We believe there are some easy ways that the public in Scotland can increase their fibre intake. Fibre is found in lots of foods, but good sources in the diet would be wholegrain starchy foods, such as wholemeal bread, wholewheat pasta and brown rice, and high fibre breakfast cereals. These changes shouldn’t increase costs – for example switching breakfast cereal to a higher fibre one could cost around the same.

“While these are simple actions that consumers can take on one aspect of diet, there needs to be  considerable, collaborative and holistic action from Government, food manufacturers and retailers to address the wider areas of concern.

“FSS is already working closely with Scottish Government  and industry, on areas such as mandatory calorie labelling on menus and restricting promotions of High Fat, Sugar and/or Salt (HFSS) foods, to help consumers make informed choices about their diet. However, fibre and fruit and vegetable intakes are still too low, and levels of free sugars and saturated fats are too high, and these are linked to an increased risk of long-term health problems.

“Unhealthy diets impact our health and the economy. Treating the  conditions associated with overweight and obesity costs Scotland up to £600m/year and the cost to the wider Scottish economy are estimated to be up to  around £4.6bn/year. This survey has shown that we, as a nation, are still a long way from reaching our dietary goals and there must be collective responsibility to improve the Scottish diet.”

Key findings from the 2021 diet chapter in the report, for adults, include:

  • Average intake of fruit and vegetables was 3.4 portions. 22% of all adults consumed five or more portions of fruit and vegetables per day.
  • Average intake of red and red processed meat in all adults (both consumers and non-consumers) was 49g per day. 72% of all adults consumed no more than 70g of red and red processed meat per day.
  • Average free sugar intake was 10% of total energy. 22% of all adults met the SDG for free sugars intake.
  • Average total fat intake was 34% of food energy. 48% of all adults met the SDG for total fat intake.
  • Average saturated fat intake was 13% of food energy. 26% of all adults met the SDG for saturated fat intake.
  • The average energy density of the diet was 160kcal/100g/day. Only 20% of adults met the energy density SDG of no more than 125 kcal/100g/day

FSS has a dedicated fibre section on the Eat Well Your Way website, which includes advice on  how to meet the 30g/day fibre goal and information on why fibre is important in your diet. Eat Well Your Way also provides practical tips and advice on the steps to take, more generally, to eat healthier.

You can access the full Scottish Health Survey online here.

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