Jan 17, 2018Assessment of berry consumption in U.S. released
Researchers at the Center for Nutrition Research at the Illinois Institute of Technology recently published an assessment of berry consumption on associated health factors using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2007-2012. Citing limited guidance for fruit intake in current nutritional guidelines such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), the researchers sought to characterize berry intake compared to overall fruit intake in the US as well as assess factors that may motivate berry consumption.
Berries, including strawberries, contain a wide spectrum of beneficial ingredients, making them more nutrient dense than many other fruits. They provide essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin C and potassium, nutrients such as fiber, and polyphenol phytochemical compounds such as anthocyanins. Berry consumption has also been linked to several health benefits, such as decreased risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and delayed cognitive aging. The DGA does not differentiate between types of fruits in regards to nutritional and other beneficial disease-risk lowering properties.
Led by Dr. Britt Burton-Freeman, researchers used 24-hour recall data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2007-2012. Berry intake was estimated using the associated Food Patterns Equivalent Databases (FPED), 2007-2012 and behavioral characteristics were estimated using the Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey (FCBS), 2007-2010.
Results showed that only about one-fifth of the US adult population had daily fruit intakes that met the recommended 2-cup equivalent amount of total fruit, with less than 1 percent of the population consuming 1-cup equivalent of berries per day. The median consumption amount of berries was about 1/8-cup, which is much less than the typical 1-cup used in research studies investigating the health effects of berry consumption. Data also showed that fruit intake varied by age, and berry intake specifically varied less by race and ethnicity than by income and education level, with berry consumption increasing as income level and education level increased.
Behavioral results identified several factors associated with amount of total fruit and berries consumed. The following characteristics were associated with increased intake of berries: those who rated the healthfulness of their diets as excellent or very good; those who were familiar with the USDA food guidance system (MyPyramid, now MyPlate); those with some idea of the recommended amounts to eat each day for fruits, vegetables, protein foods, and whole grains; those who used food labels always or most of the time; and those with a higher frequency of having fruit available in the home.
Researchers concluded that total fruit and berries are consumed at very low levels. It was suggested that increasing the frequency with which individuals have fruit available in the home, via promotion of year-round available forms such as canned, dried, juiced, and frozen, may help to reduce cost burden and short shelf life associated with fresh berries and increase berry consumption. It was also recommended that food labeling and dietary guidance be utilized as public health strategies to increase total fruit and specifically berry intake.