Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Diet and Nutrition

A recent report released by the National Center for Health statistics describes the dietary habits of those age 60 and older. The report provides information on overall quality of diets as well as specific aspects. Dietary guidelines suggest that the typical woman should have 6 servings of grains, 3 servings of vegetables, 2 servings of fruit, 2-3* servings of dairy, and 2 servings of protein daily.
*The number of servings depends on your age. Older children and teenagers (ages 9 to 18 years) and adults over the age of 50 need 3 servings daily. Others need 2 servings daily. During pregnancy and lactation, the recommended number of milk group servings is the same as for nonpregnant women.
Overall, the NCHS report indicates that fewer than one in three elderly Americans get sufficient amounts of the 5 food groups and only 17% have a "good" quality diet. The graph below presents some of the details by food group for women. The height of each bar indicates the score for each food group by education. If 100% of women ate sufficient amounts of meat daily, the height of the bar would be 10. The lightest bars are for those with less than a high school degree; the medium green bars are for those with a high school degree but no college and the darkest bars are for those with at least some college.
Deficiencies are greatest for fruits, especially for those with less than a high school degree. The patterns for men look very similar (not shown), except that dairy is tied with fruit for the highest deficiency.
Importantly, eating more often does not lead to a better quality diet. The obese have the greatest deficiency of dairy and fruits.
I guess the good news out of the report is that 72% of elderly adults consume no more than the recommended amount of cholesterol.

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