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Health of Scotland’s population - Diet


A lack of fruit and vegetables in people's diet has been shown to be a risk factor in a range of serious health problems, such as heart disease, cancer, type II diabetes, hypertension and obesity. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends adults eat at least five varied portions - where a portion is defined as 80g - of fruit and vegetables a day1.

Scotland's unhealthy diet is widely cited as a factor in its poor health record2. Previous research has shown that children and young people in Scotland follow a diet that falls short of national recommendations and is less healthy than that of children in other European countries3.

In 2016, 20% (one fifth) of adults consumed the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables on the previous day. This represents a significant decrease from 23% in 2009. It is the joint-lowest recorded proportion of adults meeting the 5-a-day guidelines in the available time series (with 20% also found in 2012 and 2014).

In 2016, the proportion of adults eating no fruit or vegetables on the previous day was the highest in the time series (12%), with levels having fluctuated between 9-11% since 2003.

The figure below shows that the relationship between consumption of fruit and vegetables and age is not linear.  In 2016, it was lowest among those aged 16-24, who consumed a mean of 2.5 portions a day, and highest among those aged 55-74 (a mean of 3.3 portions).line chart and bar chart breaking down fruit and vegetable consumption by age

View chart data

1. See:


3. Scotland's Health - A Challenge to Us All: The Scottish Diet. Edinburgh: The Scottish Office, 1993.

Source: Scottish Health Survey (SHeS)

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