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Nearly everyone fails to meet Dietary Guidelines, suggests study

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 16-Sep-2010

Nearly the entire US population fails to eat a diet in line with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, according to new research published in the Journal of Nutrition.

The researchers, from the National Cancer Institute and the National Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, examined 2001-2004 NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) data including 16,338 individuals’ dietary habits.

They found that more than 80 percent of those aged 71 and above, and more than 90 percent of all other age groups of both sexes, overconsumed discretionary calories – those that come from solid fats, added sugars and alcohol. A majority did not meet MyPyramid recommendations for every food group except total grains and meat and beans, the researchers found.

“Nearly everyone” failed to meet recommendations for dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, which were the groups with the lowest adherence to recommendations.

“In conclusion, nearly the entire US population consumes a diet that is not on par with recommendations. These findings add another piece to the rather disturbing picture that is emerging of a nation’s diet in crisis,” the authors wrote.

Young adults were most likely to fall short of recommendations for fruits, milk and oils, and those aged 31 to 50 were most likely to drink too much alcohol.

The authors did not examine energy balance in their research, but they wrote that nutrient-poor energy sources seemed to be displacing nutrient-rich ones.

“The poor quality of Americans’ diets evident from this analysis is consistent not only with high rates of obesity and overweight but also food insecurity, which is characterized by compromises in diet quality and variety,” they wrote.

Moreover, the researchers applied their findings to the US food supply, which they said has oversupplied solid fats, added sugars, and sodium, and undersupplied fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and milk over at least the past several decades.

“The stark contrasts observed between the diets of Americans as well as the US food supply and current dietary guidance underscore the need for individual- and environmental-level interventions to facilitate healthier dietary intake patterns,” the authors concluded. “Without such interventions, the diets of most U.S. adults and children will continue to be markedly divergent from recommendations, a worrisome state in the context of the obesity epidemic and alarming rates of other diet-related chronic diseases.”

Source: The Journal of Nutrition

140: 1832–1838, 2010

“Americans Do Not Meet Federal Dietary Recommendations”

Authors: Susan M. Krebs-Smith, Patricia M. Guenther, Amy F. Subar, Sharon I. Kirkpatrick, and Kevin W. Dodd.

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