Fortified Foods Are Major Contributors to Nutrient Intakes in Diets of US Children and Adolescents

Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2014;114(7):1009-1022

Background: Even in an era of obesity and dietary excess, numerous shortfall micronutrients have been identified in the diets of US children and adolescents. To help tailor strategies for meeting recommendations, it is important to know what foods contribute greatly to micronutrient intakes. Data are lacking on specific contributions made by added nutrients.

Objective: Our aims were to examine the impact of fortification on nutrient adequacy and excess among US children and adolescents and to rank food sources of added nutrient intake and compare rankings with those based on total nutrient intake from foods.

Design and Statistical Analyses: Data were from 7,250 respondents 2 to 18 years old in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2003-2006. Datasets were developed that distinguished nutrient sources: intrinsic nutrients in foods; added nutrients in foods; foods (intrinsic plus added nutrients); and total diet (foods plus supplements). The National Cancer Institute method was used to determine usual intakes of micronutrients by source. The impact of fortification on the percentages of children having intakes less than the Estimated Average Requirement and more than the Upper Tolerable Intake Level was assessed by comparing intakes from intrinsic nutrients to intakes from intrinsic plus added nutrients. Specific food sources of micronutrients were determined as sample-weighted mean intakes of total and added nutrients contributed from 56 food groupings. The percentage of intake from each grouping was determined separately for total and added nutrients.

Results: Without added nutrients, a high percentage of all children/adolescents had inadequate intakes of numerous micronutrients, with the greatest inadequacy among older girls. Fortification reduced the percentage less than the Estimated Average Requirement for many, although not all, micronutrients without resulting in excessive intakes. Data demonstrated the powerful influence of fortification on food-source rankings.

Conclusions: Knowledge about nutrient intakes and sources can help put dietary advice into a practical context. Continued monitoring of top food sources of nutrients and nutrient contributions from fortification will be important.

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This work was supported by the ILSI North America Committee on Fortification.