Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Dietary intakes and vitamin status of a sample of homeless people in Paris


Objective: To determine nutritional intake and vitamin status in a sample of homeless people who had been on the streets of Paris for more than 2 y.

Design: The nutritional status was evaluated by a 24 h recall questionnaire and by assay of circulating levels of vitamins A, B1, B6, B12, C and E.

Setting: The study was conducted in four accommodation centres of the SAMU Social of Paris (CHUSI units) from July 1999 to May 2000.

Subjects: A total of 329 homeless people were interviewed. Only 87 subjects, aged 26–76 y, were recruited based on seven selection criteria (over 18 y old, being homeless for more than 2 y, interviewed before taking a meal in the CHUSI units, good understanding of French, in a calm state, not coming from hospital or another CHUSI units, without any acute condition that might affect usual dietary habits), and completed the dietary questionnaire. Out of these 87, 71 agreed to blood sampling.

Results: In all 84% of the subjects declared that they drank alcoholic beverages regularly (175±167 g/day of alcohol), and 75.5% of the subjects also declared that they smoked. The mean total energy intake was 2111±1482 kcal/day for the men (8823.98±6194.76 kJ/day) and 1523±531 kcal/day for the women (6366.14±2219.58 kJ/day). Alcohol accounted for 44±30% and 19±17% of the total energy intakes (TEI) for the men and women, respectively. Proteins, lipids and carbohydrates accounted for 21±9, 23±14 and 57±16%, respectively, of the energy intake without alcohol for men, and 15±5, 22±11 and 62±14% EIWA for women. For all micronutrients, except for iron in the men, more than 50% of the population studied had intakes below the French recommendations for the adult population. All the women had calcium, vitamin E and vitamin B1 intakes below the recommendations for French women (900, 12 and 1.3 mg/day, respectively) in the general population. For the men, 98.7, 96.1 and 93.5% of the subjects had vitamin E, B1 and C intakes below the recommendations for French males in the general population (12, 1.5 and 80 mg/day, respectively). It is of note that subjects who ate in the CHUSI units more than once a day per week had significantly (P=0.018) higher intakes of vitamin C (27±38 mg/day) than did the subjects who ate in the CHUSI units less than once a day (8±12 mg/day). Measurement of serum vitamin levels demonstrated a deficiency in 95% of the subjects, mainly for vitamin C. The mean concentration in serum was 16±8 µmol/l, although 72% of the subjects had levels of 6 µmol/l. In contrast, 50.7, 42.2 and 35.2% of the subjects had high levels of vitamin B6, B12 and B1, respectively (100 nmol/l, 420 pmol/l and 40 µmol/l).

Conclusion: Alcohol takes a high place in the diet of these homeless people. Although the total energy intake was too low, macronutrient intakes seem to be satisfactory in quality (well-balanced). However, calcium and vitamin C intakes were too low, and these deficiencies favour the development of disease (scurvy, asthenia, ecchymosis), in addition to alcohol-linked disease. Furthermore, the overexposure to vitamin B6, among the other B vitamins, is a matter of concern since it has been shown to be toxic in high doses.

Sponsorship: The study was sponsored by a commercial catering organisation (SOGERES). Vitamin status was assessed by Pasteur Cerba Laboratories.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1
Figure 2


  • Anderson R, Oosthuizen R, Maritz R, Theron A, Van Rebsburg AJ . 1980 The effect of increasing weekly doses of ascorbate on certain cellular and humoral immune functions in normal volunteers Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 33: 71–76

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Auerhahn C . 1992 Recognition and management of alcohol-related nutritional deficiencies Nurse Pract. 17: 40, 43–44, 49

    Google Scholar 

  • Barrow SM, Herman DB, Cordova P, Struening EL . 1999 Mortality among homeless shelter residents in New York City Am. J. Public Health 89: 529–534

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Berger A, Schaumburg HH . 1984 More on neuropathy from pyridoxine abuse New Engl. J. Med. 311: 986–987

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Commission of the European Communities . 1993 Nutrients and energy intakes for the European Community Reports of the Scientific Committee for Food, 31st series.

  • Cook CC, Hallwood PM, Thomson AD . 1998 B Vitamin deficiency and neuropsychiatric syndromes in alcohol misuse Alcohol Alcohol 33: 317–336

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Darnton-Hill I, Ash S . 1988 Dietary and alcohol intake patterns of a sample of homeless men in Sydney, Australia J. Hum. Nutr. Ethics 1: 397–408

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Darnton-Hill I, Truswell AS . 1990 Thiamin status of a sample of homeless clinic attenders in Sydney Med. J. Aust. 152: 5–9

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Desenclos JC, Berry AM, Padt R, Farah B, Segala C, Nabil AM . 1989 Epidemiological patterns of scurvy among Ethiopian refugees WHO Bulletin, 67: 309–316

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Dupin H, Abraham J, Giachetti I . 1992 Apports nutritionnels conseillés pour la population française. Paris: Edition Lavoisier Tec & Doc

  • Evans NS, Dowler EA . 1999 Food, health and eating among single homeless margenalized people in London J. Hum. Nutr. Dietet. 12: 179–199

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fain O, Thomas M . 1997 Le scorbut actuellement Cah. Nutr. 32: 300–306

    Google Scholar 

  • Evans NS, Dowler EA . 1999 Food, health and eating among single homeless on ???? peole in London J. Hum. Nutr. Dietet. 12: 179–199

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Feinberg M, Favier JC, Ireland-Ripert J . 1991 Répertoire général des aliments. FFN Ciqual ed. INRA Ed Tec & Doc. Paris: Lavoisier

  • Hathcock JN . 1997 Vitamins and minerals: efficacity and safety Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 66: 427–437

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Herbeth B, Didelot-Barthelemy L, Lemoine A, Le Devehat C . 1988 Dietary behavior of French men according to alcohol drinking pattern J. Stud. Alcohol 49: 268–72

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Hercberg S, Preziosi P, Galan P, Deheeger M, Papoz L, Dupin H . 1991 Apports nutritionnels d'un échantillon représentatif de la population du Val-de-Marne: III–apports en minéraux et vitamines Rev. Epidemiol Santé Publ. 39: 245–261

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Hercberg S, Preziosi P, Galan P, Devanlay M, Keller H, Bourgeois C, Potier de Courcy G, Cherouvrier F . 1994 Vitamin status of a healthy French population: dietary intakes and biochemical markers Int. J. Vitam. Nutr. Res. 64: 220–232

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hope LC, Cook CC, Thomson AD . 1999 A survey of the current clinical practice of psychiatrists and accident and emergency specialists in the United Kingdom concerning vitamin supplementation for chronic alcohol misusers Alcohol Alcohol. 34: 862–867

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Hwang SW . 2000 Mortality among men using homeless shelters in Toronto, Ontario J.A.M.A. 283: 2152–2157

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Hwang SW, Lebow JM, Bierer MF, O'Connell JJ, Orav EJ, Brennan TA . 1998 Risk factors for death in homeless adults in Boston Arch. Intern. Med. 158: 1454–1460

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kallner A, Hartmann D, Horning DH . 1981 On the requirements of ascorbic acid in man: steady-state turn over and body pool in smokers Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 34: 1347–1355

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kashiyama T, Takechi A, Kimura H, Fuyama M . 1999 Pneumonia among the homeless Kansenshogaku Zasshi 73: 717–721

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kovess V, Mangin LC . 1999 The prevalence of psychiatric disorders and use of care by homeless people in Paris Soc. Psychiat. Psychiatr. Epidemiol. 34: 580–587

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Luder E, Boey E, Bonnie Buchalter MD, C Martinez-Weber . 1989 Assessment of the nutritional status of urban homeless adults Public Health Rep. 104: 451–457

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Nicolas JM, Estruch R, Antunez E, Sacanella E, Urbano-Marquez A . 1993 Nutritional status in chronically alcoholic men from the middle socioeconomic class and its relation to ethanol intake Alcohol 28: 551–558

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Observatoire du Samu Social . 1999 De la grande précarité à la grande exclusion. Etude épidémiologiques à partir des données (année 1998) du logiciel du numéro d'urgence pour les sans abri (le 115)

  • Rendleman NJ . 1999 Mandated tuberculosis screening in a community of homeless people Am. J. Prev. Med. 17: 108–113

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Rigaud D, Giachetti I, Deheeger M, Borys JM, Volatier JL, Lemoine A, Cassuto D . 1997 Enquête française de consommation alimentaire I. Energie et macronutriments Cah. Nutr. Diét. 32: 379–389

    Google Scholar 

  • Scaumburg H, Kaplan J, Windebank A, Vick N, Rasmus S, Pleasure D, Brown MJ . 1983 Sensory neuropathy from pyridoxine abuse New Engl. J. Med. 309: 445–448

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Snodgrass SR . 1992 Vitamin neurotoxicity Mol. Neurobiol. 6: 41–73

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Stratigos AJ, Stren R, Gonzales E, Johnson RA, O'Connell J, Dover JS . 1999 Prevalence of skin disease in a cohort of shelter-based homeless men J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 41: 2 Pt 1: 197–202

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors would like to thank the staff of the Samu Social for their cooperation.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Malmauret, L., Leblanc, J., Cuvelier, I. et al. Dietary intakes and vitamin status of a sample of homeless people in Paris. Eur J Clin Nutr 56, 313–320 (2002).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • homeless
  • nutritional intakes
  • 24 h recall
  • vitamin status

This article is cited by


Quick links