Nutrition and the Health of Young People
Benefits of Healthy Eating
Healthy eating contributes to overall healthy
growth and development, including healthy bones, skin, and energy
levels; and a lowered risk of dental caries, eating disorders,
constipation, malnutrition, and iron deficiency anemia.1
Diet and Disease
- Early indicators of atherosclerosis, the most common cause of heart disease,
begin as early as childhood and adolescence. Atherosclerosis is related to
high blood cholesterol levels, which are associated with poor dietary
- Osteoporosis, a disease where bones become fragile and can break easily, is
associated with inadequate intake of calcium.3
- Type 2 diabetes, formerly known as adult onset diabetes, has become
increasingly prevalent among children and adolescents as rates of overweight
and obesity rise.4 A CDC study estimated that one in three American children
born in 2000 will develop diabetes in their lifetime.5
- Overweight and obesity, influenced by poor diet and inactivity, are
significantly associated with an increased risk of diabetes, high blood
pressure, high cholesterol, asthma, joint problems,
and poor health status.6
Obesity Among Youth
The prevalence of overweight among children aged 6-11 years has more than
doubled in the past 20 years and among adolescents aged 12-19 has more than
Overweight children and adolescents
are more likely to become overweight or obese adults;9 one
study showed that children who became obese by age 8 were more severely
obese as adults.10
Eating Behaviors of Young People
- Less than 40% of children and adolescents in the United States
meet the U.S. dietary guidelines
for saturated fat.11
- Eighty percent of high school students do not eat fruits and
vegetables 5 or more times per day.12
- Only 39% of children ages 2-17 meet the USDA抯 dietary
recommendation for fiber (found
primarily in dried beans and peas, fruits, vegetables, and whole
- Eighty-five percent of adolescent females do not consume enough
calcium.3 During the last 25 years, consumption of milk, the
largest source of calcium, has decreased 36% among adolescent
females.14 Additionally, from 1978 to 1998, average daily soft
drink consumption almost doubled among adolescent females,
increasing from 6 ounces to 11 ounces, and almost tripled among
adolescent males, from 7 ounces to 19 ounces.11, 15
- A large number of high school students use unhealthy methods to
lose or maintain weight. A nationwide survey found that during
the 30 days preceding the survey, 12.3% of students went without
eating for 24 hours or more; 4.5% had vomited or taken laxatives
in order to lose weight; and
6.3% had taken
diet pills, powders, or liquids without a doctor's advice.12
Diet and Academic Performance
Research suggests that not having breakfast can
affect children's intellectual performance.16
The percentage of young people who eat breakfast
decreases with age; while 92% of children ages 6� eat breakfast, only 77%
of adolescents ages 12� eat breakfast.11
Hunger and food insufficiency in children are
associated with poor behavioral and academic functioning.17,18
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of
Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 6th Edition,
2005. Washington, DC, U.S. Government Printing Office.
Kavey RW, Daniels SR, Lauer RM, Atkins DL, Hayman LL, Taubert K.
American Heart Association guidelines for primary prevention of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease beginning in childhood.
Journal of Pediatrics 2003;142(4):368-372.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Bone Health and
Osteoporosis: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: Department of Health and Humans Services, Office of the Surgeon General,
Rosenbloom AL, Joe JR, Young RS, Winter WE. Emerging epidemic of type
2 diabetes in youth. Diabetes Care 1999;22(2):345-354.
Venkat Narayan KM, Boyle JP, Thompson TJ, Sorensen SW, Williamson DF.
Lifetime risk for diabetes mellitus in the United States. Journal of the American Medical Association 2003;290(14):1884-1890.
Mokdad AH, Ford ES, Bowman BA, et al. Prevalence of obesity, diabetes, and obesity-related
health risk factors, 2001. Journal of the American Medical Association
Ogden CL, Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Johnson CL. Prevalence and trends in
overweight among US children and adolescents, 1999-2000. Journal of the American Medical Association 2002;288:1728-32.
Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Curtin LR, McDowell MA, Tabak CJ, Flegal KM.
Prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States,1999-2004. Journal of the American Medical Association
Ferraro KF, Thorpe RJ Jr, Wilkinson JA. The life course of severe
obesity: Does childhood overweight matter? Journal of Gerontology 2003;58B(2):S110-S119.
Freedman DS, Khan LK, Dietz WH, Srinivasan SR, Berenson GS.
Relationship of childhood obesity to coronary heart disease risk factors in adulthood: the Bogalusa Heart Study.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Continuing Survey of Food
Intakes by Individuals 1994-96, 1998.
Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance桿nited States, 2005
[pdf 300K]. Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report 2006;55(SS-5):1�8.
Lin BH, Guthrie J, Frazao E. American children抯 diets not making
the grade. Food Review 2001;24(2):8-17.
Cavadini C, Siega-Riz AM, Popkin BM. US adolescent food intake
trends from 1965 to 1996. Archives of Disease in Childhood 2000;83(1):18-24.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. Continuing Survey of Food
Intakes by Individuals, 1987-88, Appendix A.
Pollitt E, Matthews R. Breakfast and cognition: an integrative
summary. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1998;67(suppl): 804S-813S.
Alaimo K, Olson CM, and Frongillo EA. "Food Insufficiency and American
School-Aged Children's Cognitive, Academic and Psychosocial
Developments." Pediatrics 108.1 (2001):44�.
Kleinman, R. E., et al. "Hunger in children in the United States:
Potential behavioral and emotional correlates." Pediatrics 101
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