Highlights from the September 2006 Journal of the American Dietetic Association

CHICAGO -- Most Americans Eat Less Than Recommended Amounts of Fruits and Vegetables

Americans are not eating nearly enough of the new daily recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, according to researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Cancer Institute.

The researchers studied the proportion of the population that met both the government's previous and latest recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake advocated in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's new MyPyramid food guide.

According to the study, in 1999-2000, just 40 percent of the American population met the then current recommendations to eat an average of five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The figures were as low as 10 percent among girls ages 4 to 8 and as high as 60 percent among men ages 51 to 70.

The new MyPyramid recommendations are 2 to 6 ½ cups per day of fruits and vegetables. The researchers reported that adequate intakes of fruits and vegetables ranged from a low of 0.7 percent of boys age 14 to 18 years, whose combined recommendation is five cups, to a high of 48 percent of children age 2 to 3, whose combined recommendation is one cup. Among women age 51 to 70 years, only 17 percent met their combined recommendation. Among all other sex-age groups, fewer than 11 percent met their goals.

The researchers conclude with a call to action: "Nutrition and other health-care professionals must help consumers realize that for everyone over age 3 years, the new recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake are greater, and in many cases much greater, than the familiar five servings per day."

Salad and Raw Vegetable Consumption and Nutritional Status in U.S. Adults

People who eat salads tend to have above-average intakes of nutrients like vitamin C, E, folic acid, lycopene and carotenoids, according to researchers at the University of California. Studying data from nearly 18,000 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III, gathered between 1988 and 1994, the researchers defined salad consumption as either garden salad or raw vegetable consumption, as well as salad dressings other than mayonnaise.

Consumption of salads, raw vegetables and dressings were "positively associated" with above average serum micronutrient levels of folic acid, vitamins C and E, lycopene and alpha and beta-carotene. Each serving of salad eaten was associated among women with a 165 percent higher likelihood to meet the recommended daily allowance for vitamin C and 119 percent greater likelihood in men.

The researchers conclude: "Salad, salad dressing and raw vegetable consumption can be an effective strategy for enhancing nutritional adequacy and increasing vegetable consumption in the population at large."

This study was funded in part by the Association for Dressings and Sauces.

Portion Distortion Increases over the Years

Portion sizes selected by young adults are not only larger than those established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they are significantly larger than portion sizes selected by young adults two decades ago, according to researchers at Rutgers University.

The purposes of the study were to determine current portion sizes typically chosen by young adults, how these compare with the reference amounts (based in this study on the 1984 Nutrition Labeling and Educations Act's quantities of food customarily eat per eating occasion) and whether the size of typical portions has changed over time. Participants in the study were college students ranging in age from 16 to 26. Three-quarters of the 177 participants were women and about two-thirds were freshmen.

They served themselves "typical portion sizes" at either breakfast, lunch or dinner, then the portions were weighed. Typical portion sizes of foods such as, jelly, milk on cereal and cornflakes tended to exceed reference portion sizes by more than 25 percent. Typical portion sizes of butter, tuna salad, tossed salad and salad dressing tended to be more than 25 percent less than reference portion sizes.

According to the researchers: "Portion sizes of virtually all foods and beverages prepared for immediate consumption have increased over the last two decades. Portion sizes of individually packaged and ready-to-eat prepared foods have increased as well as the portion sizes served at fast-food, chain and privately owned restaurants …Consumers now perceive these larger portion sizes as the appropriate amount to eat at a single eating occasion thus experience portion distortion."

A similar study conducted in 1984 "found that portion distortion already may have been occurring then," the researchers write. "The increases in portion sizes since that study may have led to even greater portion distortion."

American Dietetic Association Issues Updated Position Statement on "Child and Adolescent Food and Nutrition Programs"

The health of children and adolescents is dependent on food intake that provides sufficient energy and nutrients to promote optimal physical, social and cognitive growth and development. Food and nutrition programs provide a safety net for American children and adolescents at risk for poor nutritional intakes, according to an updated position statement of the American Dietetic Association. ADA's position statement is as follows:

It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that all children and adolescents, regardless of age, sex, socioeconomic status, racial diversity, ethnic diversity, linguistic diversity or health status, should have access to food and nutrition programs that ensure the availability of a safe and adequate food supply that promotes optimal physical, cognitive, social and emotional growth and development. Appropriate food and nutrition programs include food assistance and meal programs, nutrition education initiatives and nutrition screening and assessment followed by appropriate nutrition intervention and anticipatory guidance to promote optimal nutrition status.

Additional research articles in the September Journal of the American Dietetic Association include:

  • "Consumption of Whole-Grain Cereals during Weight Loss: Effects on Dietary Quality"
  • "Motivating 18-to-24-Year-Olds to Increase Their Fruit and Vegetable Consumption"
  • "Fat-Related Dietary Behaviors of Adult New York City Puerto Ricans with and without Diabetes"
  • "Impact of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus Nutrition Practice Guidelines Implemented by Registered Dietitians on Pregnancy Outcomes."

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The September 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association contains articles and research studies you may find of interest. For more information or to receive a copy of a Journal article, e-mail media@eatright.org.

The Journal of the American Dietetic Association is the official research publication of the American Dietetic Association and is the premier peer-reviewed journal in the field of nutrition and dietetics.

With approximately 65,000 members, the American Dietetic Association is the nation's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Chicago-based ADA serves the public by promoting optimal nutrition, health and well-being. To locate a registered dietitian in your area, visit the American Dietetic Association at www.eatright.org. For more information or to receive a copy of a Journal article, e-mail media@eatright.org.


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