Spotlight: 20 Years of HSIS

Published on: 1 July 2019

Celebrating 100 years of consumer healthcare spotlight header image

Twenty years is a milestone in any walk of life. To be celebrating 20 years of providing accurate, evidence-based balanced information is quite an achievement. Over the last 20 years HSIS (the Health and Food Supplements Information Service) has fought hard to have its voice heard among the plethora of incorrect and misleading information about food supplements

HSIS logo

HSIS has made great strides since 1999 turning around a negative media environment to one where health editors and writers actively seek out our opinion, and at times even ask us to copy check their own work to ensure their reporting is fact-based. 

But it’s not all rosy. With the rise of influencers and endless blogs and online news sites the accuracy of health-related information provided to consumers by individuals who are not qualified or have not even studied in the health arena are ever increasing. This makes it even more imperative that HSIS doesn’t rest on its laurels but continues its invaluable work of providing evidence-based information about the diet.

This is what led us to our latest report. We wanted to produce something that would be hard hitting yet had relevance to the celebration of our 20 years anniversary.

Nicky Smith, Founder of Jungle Cat Solutions which provides press office support to HSIS explains more:

Working with the HSIS panel of experts we came up with the concept of looking back at the nation’s diet over the last 20 years and conducting the first review of its kind – a review into the diet over the past 20 years.

Had the diet, after years of public health campaigns centred around healthy eating, increasing fruit and veg and reducing obesity, improved such that we are in fact a much healthier nation, given we are now fully informed and aware of all our food choices? Or has it stagnated, or even become worse? And what does this all mean for nutrient intakes? And the health implications?

An in-depth analysis

Before embarking on the report, we first needed to create the robust evidence-based information to review diets over the last 20 years and a base from which we could then draw findings and conclusions. Not only were we analysing diets over the last 20 years, but also asking the question about the effectiveness of public health campaigns across those years.

Public Health Nutritionist, Dr Emma Derbyshire from the HSIS panel of experts, started by conducting an in-depth analysis of the UK’s two major dietary surveys; the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) annual Family Food Survey and the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey Rolling Programme (NDNS-RP).

Dietary trends over 20 years 

The findings were written up into a report State of the Nation: Dietary Trends in the UK – 20 years on. Where are we and where are we going? And as you may have already read, the findings show that our diet has not improved. In fact, the UK diet is now seeing more deficiencies across the board compared to 20 years ago. Key micronutrients, in particular riboflavin, folate, vitamin A, vitamin D, iron, calcium, magnesium, iodine, selenium and potassium – have all seen declines over the last 20 years.

Findings also showed that oily fish consumption has not improved in the last 20 years, remaining consistently below optimal levels and intakes of fibre (roughage) were also below recommended levels, partly as a reflection of poor fruit and vegetable intakes and low levels of wholegrain foods.

Breaking news

The news angle we took was Diet Disaster – UK Faces Health Crisis over Poor Nutrition, leading with the opener that health experts are warning that the UK is sleep walking into serious illnesses from cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis to memory loss due to poor diets, deficient in vital nutrients.

The report details the extent that such UK nutrient trends are set to create, with the very real likelihood of a surge in chronic illnesses and premature mortality, our message was that younger people face a significantly increased risk of serious health issues by the time they reach middle age, along with a reduced life expectancy if they don’t improve their diets.

We knew this would be of great interest to the health and lifestyle media, so we launched the report at a media event, attended by 35 journalists representing 50 plus titles, including Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, Daily Express, Marie Claire, Prima, Woman’s Own.

Dr Emma Derbyshire, registered dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton and neurobiologist, Professor Robert Pickard explored the report findings and answered journalists’ questions before sitting down to a healthy lunch packed full of nutrients.

Since the report launch and media event on 21st May, 12 articles have been published including six national pieces of editorial.

Undoubtedly, there will always be research papers and viewpoints that are not supportive or question the need for food supplement use, but with HSIS at the helm just like the past 20 years, using our own growing portfolio of robust evidence and drawing on scientific studies our positive message will be heard by consumers and healthcare professionals.

Here’s to the next 20 years!


By Nicky Smith, Jungle Cat Solutions

This article first appeared in Spotlight, July 2019. Spotlight is a Member newsletter produced by PAGB.


The Health and Food Supplements Information Service is funded by PAGB, the trade association representing the manufacturers of branded over the counter medicines, medical devices and food supplements.