Adequate mineral intake is important for the maintenance of bone health, cellular function and general metabolism, and possibly in the aetiology of cancer and other chronic diseases. This study aimed at investigating variation in intakes of selected minerals across 10 European countries participating in the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) study.
Nutrient intakes for 36 034 subjects, aged between 35 and 74 years, in 27 centres were obtained using standardized 24-h dietary recall software (EPIC-SOFT). Mean intakes of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and potassium were calculated by centre and weighted by season and day of the week and were also stratified by age group. The contribution of food groups to total nutrient intake was calculated.
There was clear geographical variability in intakes, with differences ranging from 35% for magnesium to 90% for iron in men and 36% for potassium to 75% for calcium in women, and a twofold difference in sources of haem iron (meat and fish). There was a geographical gradient in iron intake, with higher intakes in Southern than in Northern Europe and also around a twofold north–south gradient in the contribution of fruits and vegetables to potassium intake. Compared with reference intakes, the majority of age groups and centres had intakes above the recommended levels. Dairy foods and products contributed the most to calcium and phosphorus intake in almost all centres. Cereals and cereal products contributed the most to magnesium and iron intakes, except in Greece and Germany.
Intakes of minerals vary substantially throughout Europe, with some geographical variability in their food sources.