MRC Elsie Widdowson Laboratory

Diet and Nutrition Survey of Infants and Young Children

DNSIYC Reports and Data

The DNSIYC report can be found on the Department of Health website.

DNSIYC data can be accessed from the UK Data Archive.


The Diet and Nutrition Survey of Infants and Young Children (DNSIYC) was funded by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the Department of Health.

The Survey was designed to assess the dietary habit and nutritional status of infants and young children from 4 to 18 months of age in the UK. DNSIYC is unique in that it provides the only source of authoritative information on the food and nutrient intakes, sources of nutrients and nutritional status of a representative sample of the population of this important age group.

The survey was known in the field as “The National Infant Diet and Health Study” and was carried out by a consortium of organisations:

  • Medical Research Council Human Nutrition Research (HNR), Cambridge. HNR has overall responsibility for the survey and is responsible for the dietary assessment (coding and analysis of dietary record), the clinic visit (Stage 2), including blood sampling, measures of breastmilk output and body composition using tracer water.
  • The National Centre for Social Research (Natcen), an independent research institute based in London. Natcen is responsible for the fieldwork aspects, including the interviews of respondents in their homes (Stage 1).
  • Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit, also based in Cambridge. Paediatric consultant Dr Ken Ong is the survey doctor.
  • Human Nutrition Research Centre at Newcastle University is involved with aspects of the dietary assessment work.

DNSIYC provides a snapshot of the diet and nutrition status of infants and young children in the UK population.

We employed a number of successful and innovative approaches and methods in delivery of the DNSIYC survey resulting in a very high response rate (62%) and a final sample size of 2,638 children from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Forty-four percent went on to attend the clinic visit, 98% of whom provided a skinfold thickness measurement, 87% completed a unique stable isotope component and 55% provided a blood sample. The survey also included boosted recruitment in Scotland and among those in receipt of Healthy Start vouchers to enable additional analysis.

 Headline findings:

  • The survey suggested that most children, particularly those in the younger age groups, had adequate intakes of many vitamins, minerals, protein, fruit and vegetables, and consistent with nutritional advice had low intakes of salt, confectionary and savoury snacks.
  • On average, energy and protein intake in infants (4-6 months) matched their estimated energy requirements, but by 12-18 months old the energy intakes of about a third of children were above energy requirements, increasing the risk of obesity.
  • Sugars, preserves and confectionery were consumed by only 11% of 4 to 6 month old children, but this increased to 62% of children aged 12 to18 months old
  • Similarly, only 7% of children under 6 months were consuming savoury snacks, but this increased substantially with age: by 12-18 months old 43% of children were receiving these foods.
  • Breast feeding rates were similar to those of the Infant Feeding Study of 2010, with a majority of children (57%) not being breastfed beyond 3 months, while 22% had never been breastfed.
  • Government recommendations state that solid food should be introduced at about six months of age, but 97% of children had received solid food before this point in DNSYIC, while 10% were receiving food other than milk by 3 months.

The DNSIYC report now has been published on the Department of Health website.

The main aims of DNSIYC were:

  • to provide detailed information about the diet, food, nutrients and feeding practices of infants and young children in the UK today
  • to measure infants and young children to assess their body fat, height (length), weight and body composition
  • to analyse blood to provide information about the nutritional status of infants and young children.

Survey Stages

The survey consisted of 2 stages; Stage 1 carried out in the respondents’ homes and Stage 2 carried out in a specialised clinical research facility.

Stage 1:

The survey combined computer assisted personal interviews (CAPI) with physical examinations to measure infant length and weight and the height and weight of the mother if she was breastfeeding. It also incorporated a record of food intake over 4 days, collected by recording food and drink into a diary.

The survey interview collected data on:

  • Demographic and socio-economic characteristics
  • Details of the parents/primary carer of infant
  • Dietary habits, breastfeeding/weaning practices and developmental stages of infant
  • Childcare arrangements
  • Sunlight exposure of infant
  • General health, supplements and medications
  • The information about what infants and children eat was collected using a 4 day estimated (unweighed) diet diary.

Stage 2:

The Clinic Visit consisted of physical measurements including skinfold thickness measurements to assess the infant’s body fat and body composition, blood collections to measure a number of markers of nutritional status and the assessment of breastmilk intake, fluid intake and body composition using tracer water. Clinically relevant results were reported back to the parent of the participant child and/or to their GP as requested.

A feature of DNSIYC was to provide feedback to participants about their diet within 3 to 4 months of participation in the survey. This provided information about their recorded intake of a number of key nutrients, such as protein, vitamin C and calcium and how these relate to recommendations from this age group.

Clinics involved in DNSIYC

The success of DNSIYC depended on the good will and voluntary participation of members of the public across the United Kingdom to whom we are immensely grateful. It also depended on the involvement of a number of NHS Clinical Research Facilities across the country. We are indebted to personnel at these clinics for their assistance with the Clinic Visit and for blood specimen processing and storage.

Key Objectives for DNSIYC were to:

  • provide quantitative data on the food and nutrient intake, sources of nutrients, and nutritional status of infants and young children aged 4 to 18 months from the UK population
  • describe the characteristics of individuals with intakes of specific nutrients that are above or below the national average
  • provide quantitative information on breast and breast milk substitutes consumed by this age group
  • provide length, weight and other body measurements and examine their relationship to social, dietary and health data
  • measure blood indices of nutritional status and relate these to dietary, physiological and social data
  • This information can be used as a basis for Governmental policies in relation to infants and young children, as well as establishing the extent to which the country’s youngest children are adequately nourished and complying with guidelines for infant health.