According to U.S. Department of Agriculture
guidelines, Americans should consume at least two servings
of fruit and three servings of vegetables each day as part
of a healthy diet. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg
School of Public Health report that Americans are not
meeting these minimum levels. Their findings, which include
a breakdown by age, gender, ethnicity and income, will be
published in the April 2007 issue of the American
Journal of Preventive Medicine.
"We found that fruit and vegetable consumption
patterns are low for all American adults and that there was
no trend toward increased consumption between 1988 and
2002. In addition, minorities and poorer individuals were
less likely to meet the guidelines. These findings raise
concern because it has been shown that fruit and vegetable
availability and quality is inadequate in disadvantaged
communities," said Sarah Stark Casagrande, lead author of
the study and a graduate student in the Department
The researchers analyzed data from National Health and
Nutrition Examination Surveys to determine trends over time
for fruit and vegetable consumption among U.S. adults. The
study included 14,997 adults from 1988 to 1994 and 8,910
adults from 1999 to 2002.
The Johns Hopkins researchers report that Americans
have not increased their fruit and vegetable consumption.
Only 11 percent of adults met the USDA guidelines for
eating fruits and vegetables during both periods of time,
indicating no change in consumption. During the 1999 to
2002 study period, 28 percent and 32 percent of U.S.
adults, respectively, met USDA guidelines for fruits and
Approximately 62 percent did not consume any whole
fruit servings, and 75 percent did not consume fruit juice.
One-quarter of the study participants reported eating no
vegetables. Comparing the two sets of data, there was a
small decrease — from 35 percent in 1988 to 1994 to
32 percent in 1999 to 2002 — in the percentage of the
study group who met the daily vegetable recommendation.
Older study participants were more likely to meet
fruit and vegetable guidelines. Non-Hispanic blacks and
Mexican-Americans, when compared to non-Hispanic whites,
were less likely to eat fruits and vegetables. Individuals
with higher income and more education were more likely to
meet the USDA guidelines.
Tiffany L. Gary, senior author of the study and an
assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology,
said, "With all of the complex messages in the media
related to diet, increasing fruit and vegetable consumption
is very straightforward. Unfortunately, we still have not
met the mark. We are hopeful that new national initiatives
will bring forth necessary increases in consumption."
The researchers suggest that behavioral and
environmental interventions, especially those targeting
low-income populations, are necessary to help Americans
make changes in order to consume a healthy diet that
includes a variety of fruits and vegetables.
The study was co-authored by Casagrande, Youfa Wang,
Cheryl Anderson and Gary, all of the Bloomberg School of