Nutritionist, Dr Emma Derbyshire shares her views on the importance of nutrition in the middle years

Given the demographic shift in the UK towards an ageing population and the future cost impact of complex medical needs, it is important to adopt a preventative approach in the middle years to help alleviate the twin burdens in later life of infirmity and chronic disease. Nutrition plays a crucial role in healthy ageing, yet while dietary sources for most important nutrients are available and recommended as part of a healthy, balanced diet, NDNS data clearly shows UK population intakes in a number of micronutrients are insufficient.

Government data show that just 27% of adults aged 19 to 64 years meet the 5-A-Day recommendations for fruit and vegetables[1]. Furthermore, despite UK recommendations to eat at least one portion (140g) of oily fish per week, mean consumption is just 54 to 87g per week for adults[2]. Both men and women in their middle years have intakes below the LRNI for vitamin A, calcium, folate, iodine, iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium, riboflavin and zinc[3].

Limited sunlight in the UK also makes reaching vitamin D levels challenging, with NDNS data showing that around one fifth of adults aged 19 to 64 years had low blood levels of vitamin D[4]. Public Health England is now recommending that people should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D in autumn and winter and that at risk groups should supplement year-round[5].

Supplementation therefore has a key role to play to help plug evident dietary gaps and topping up the diet with a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement and omega-3 fish oil provides an easy and effective way to do this.

New research[6] from the Health and Food Supplements Information Service ( has found that one in five (20%) respondents didn’t realise a healthy diet could help support health in later life and 17% also believed they could wait until age 40 or over before they must make changes to avoid their diet impacting later life. Studies have shown that indications of cardiovascular disease have been found during post-mortems of young adults, years before any symptoms would have been noticed, or diagnoses made. It is therefore crucial that people in their 30s, 40s and 50s take action and follow a nutrient-dense diet that is balanced in energy (calories), low in saturated fats and salt, and rich in fibre, unsaturated fats, vitamins and minerals.

Immune health, eye health, cognitive function, cardiovascular disease, bone health and sarcopenia are key areas of concern for those in their middle years and including a range of vitamins and minerals in the diet may help to support them.

While selenium is crucial for the body’s immune system, NDNS data have also found that nearly half (46%) of females aged 19 to 64 years fall below the Lower Reference Nutrient Intake (LRNI, the level at which deficiency is likely to occur) for this nutrient, which rises to 52% of women aged over 65 years. Men are also low, with more than 26% of those aged 19 to 64 years falling short which rises to 34% of those over the age of 65.

UK adults are also falling below the LRNI for vitamin A (essential for eye and immune health), riboflavin/vitamin B2 (crucial for cognitive function, energy production, and eye health), folate (important for cardiovascular health, the formation of red blood cells, and neural tube development during pregnancy), calcium (necessary for bone and nerve health) and magnesium (necessary for bone health).

Topping up the diet with a daily multivitamin and mineral plus an omega-3 supplement can help to counteract potential dietary shortfalls and assist people in reaching the recommended levels of key nutrients necessary to support healthy ageing.




[3] Ruxton C and Derbyshire E (2017) Nutrition in the Middle Years. Complete Nutrition



[6] Onepoll research of 1,000 Brits aged 35 – 65. May 2017

This article was written by Dr Emma Derbyshire, nutritionist from the Health and Food Supplements Information Service (