Increasing numbers of young women are becoming deficient in vital nutrients thanks to trendy diets popularised by social media, experts have warned.
Most peopel now lack key minerals, such as potassium, magnesium and copper, analysis of official health data shows.
But the picture is particularly bad for women, especially those in their twenties and thirties, who are also deficient in crucial nutrients, such as iron, calcium and iodine.
Researchers blame fad “exclusion” diets in which entire food groups are avoided. Fuelled by social media, these diets have surged in popularity in recent years.
The most obvious example is vegetarianism - avoidance of meat and fish - but people are increasingly cutting out ingredients such as gluten, dairy, grains or sugar. Many experts worry these crazes leave followers neurotic about food and confused about what to eat.
The report, based on data from 3238 adults, who took part in Public Health England’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey, found the average woman is falling short on seven out of eight key minerals.
And the average man is falling short on five out of eight.
This can lead to fatigue, weakened immune systems, broken bones, muscle problems and infertility.
The research, which was commissioned by the industry-funded Health and Food Supplements Information Service, adds fuel to the row over dietary supplements.
The British government insists a balanced diet is enough to provide the nutrients needed and only recommends limited supplements - mainly for at-risk groups and pregnant women. The NHS also says a balanced diet will generally suffice, but advises taking vitamin D in the winter and folic acid during pregnancy.
But the latest figures, published in the Frontiers in Nutrition journal, suggest we simply do not eat healthily enough - and the industry says supplements are vital for good health.
The findings show that women are getting only 68% of the recommended intake for iron, 69% for potassium, 66% for selenium, 80% for copper and magnesium, 89% for iodine and 97% for calcium.
Men are deficient in potassium, selenium, magnesium and copper, but tend to get higher levels than women. They do, however, get lower levels of zinc, which is crucial for male reproduction.
The researchers found men and women in their forties and fifties had much healthier nutrient levels than those in their 20s.
Research author Dr Emma Derbyshire, a nutritionist who runs a health consultancy, said social media was driving the problem. “Avoidance of food groups is very trendy at the moment, but if you follow these diets you need to work very hard to make sure you get the right nutrients,” she said.
“I think social media is the biggest driver with all these trends, information and advice put out, but very little of it is actually checked for accuracy. This is of particular concern given that early adulthood is a time to be in the ‘nutritional prime’ of life, preparing for parenthood.”
She said we should be topping up our diets with supplements.
However, Professor Louis Levy, head of nutrition science at Public Health England, said a lack of nutrients “will not necessarily have a negative impact” on health.
Levy added: “Overall it is better to get our nutrients from a variety of foods within a balanced diet than from individual or multiple supplements.”Daily Mail