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Many Children in the United States Still Have Poor Diets

More than half of children aged 6 to 11 years, 12 to 19 years estimated to have poor diet in 2015-2016

TUESDAY, March 24, 2020 (HealthDay News) — More than half of U.S. youth have poor diets, according to a study published in the March 24/31 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Junxiu Liu, Ph.D., from Tufts University in Boston, and colleagues used 24-hour dietary recall data from 31,420 youth (aged 2 to 19 years) participating in nine cycles of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999 to 2016) to assess trends in diet quality.

The researchers found that from 1999 to 2016, the estimated American Heart Association (AHA) primary diet score increased 27 percent, while the estimated AHA secondary diet score increased by 13 percent and the estimated Healthy Eating Index-2015 score showed 11.2 percent improvement. Using the AHA primary diet score, the estimated proportion of youth with poor diets declined from 76.8 to 56.1 percent. While the proportion meeting ideal quality significantly increased, it remained low (0.07 to 0.25 percent). In 2015 to 2016, the proportion of youth with a poor diet was 39.8 percent for ages 2 to 5 years, 52.5 percent for ages 6 to 11 years, and 66.6 percent for ages 12 to 19 years, with persistent variation across levels of parental education, household income, and household food security status.

“Our findings of slowly improving, yet still poor, diets in U.S. children are consistent with the slowing of rises in childhood obesity but not any reversal,” a coauthor said in a statement. “Understanding these updated trends in diet quality is crucial to informing priorities to help improve the eating habits and long-term health of all of America’s youth.”

Two authors disclosed financial ties to the food and agriculture industries.

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