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Federal funding for nutrition research has grown

Friday, March 4, 2016

USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) are the lead Federal agencies that conduct human nutrition research. Federal financial investments in nutrition research more than doubled in inflation-adjusted dollars from 1985 to 2009, growing at an average annual rate of 3 percent. All of this growth was due to increased DHHS funding, especially between 1999 and 2003. In those 5 years, Congress implemented its plan to double the budget of the National Institutes of Health, the lead agency within DHHS supporting nutrition research. USDA funding fell at an average annual rate of 1.4 percent between 1985 and 2009. Over the 25-year period, USDA’s share of total Federal support fell from 21 to 7 percent, and DHHS’s share rose from 79 to 93 percent. This chart appears in the ERS report, Improving Health Through Nutrition Research: An Overview of the U.S. Nutrition Research System, January 2015.

Two-percent milk accounts for the largest share of fluid milk availability

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

According to ERS’s Food Availability data, 19.1 gallons of fluid milk were available for each U.S. consumer to drink in 2013, down from a peak of 42.3 gallons in 1945. Declining per capita milk consumption reflects a variety of factors—competition from soft drinks, fruit juices, bottled water, and other beverages; generational differences in the frequency of milk drinking; and a more ethnically diverse population, some of whose diets do not normally include fluid milk. Plain (unflavored) 2-percent milk surpassed plain whole milk in 2005 and became America’s most popular milk. In 2013, plain 2-percent milk accounted for 35 percent of fluid milk availability (6.7 gallons per person), while plain whole-milk availability was 5.2 gallons per person, down from its high of 38 gallons in 1945. Plain 1-percent milk and skim milk each accounted for 14 percent of fluid milk availability. Flavored milks, such as chocolate and strawberry, made up 9 percent of fluid milk availability in 2013. This chart appears in ERS’s Ag and Food Statistics: Charting the Essentials, updated September 18, 2015.

Allocation of food-at-home expenditures across food categories does not vary much by income

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Most Americans have plenty of room to improve the nutritional quality of their diets and how they spend their food dollars. ERS researchers analyzed dietary recall data from the 2011-12 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and found that average dietary scores of consumers across different household incomes ranged from 48.1 to 54.5 on a scale from 0 to 100. (A score of 100 indicated full compliance with Federal dietary guidance.) How consumers allocate their grocery store food dollars among food categories reflect these scores. U.S. households across income levels had similar spending patterns for most food categories—allocating a much smaller share to fruits and vegetables (17 to 19 percent) than miscellaneous foods, such as soft drinks, frozen meals, salad dressings, and snacks (34 to 37 percent). This chart appears in “Following Dietary Guidance Need Not Cost More—But Many Americans Would Need to Re-Allocate Their Food Budgets” in ERS’s September 2015 Amber Waves magazine.

Potatoes, tomatoes, and lettuce make up close to 60 percent of U.S. vegetable and legume availability

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

When consumers are advised in the produce aisle that “More Matters,” they are not just being encouraged to eat a greater quantity of fruits and vegetables, but more variety as well. Restricting one’s diet to a limited set of vegetables precludes the desired variety that would supply more diverse, healthful nutrients. According to ERS’s Food Availability data, just three vegetables—white potatoes, tomatoes, and lettuce—accounted for 59 percent of the vegetables and legumes that were available for consumption in 2013. White potatoes accounted for 30 percent of the 384.4 pounds per person of vegetables and legumes available in 2013. Tomatoes had a 22-percent share, with 20.2 pounds per person of fresh tomatoes and 65.9 pounds per person of processed tomatoes. Fresh lettuce (head lettuce, romaine, and leaf lettuce) rounded out the top 3 vegetables at 25.5 pounds per person—7 percent of 2013’s total vegetable and legume availability. This chart appears in “Potatoes and Tomatoes Account for Over Half of U.S. Vegetable Availability” in the September 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Wider group of universities and institutions conducting federally supported nutrition research

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) are the lead Federal agencies that conduct and fund human nutrition research. From 1985 to 2009, funding shifted from research at Federal nutrition laboratories and land-grant universities toward competitive research grants for non-Federal researchers, as DHHS’s share of total nutrition research funding grew from 79 to 93 percent. Over this period, the share of federally funded nutrition research projects conducted by government researchers fell from 12 to 6 percent and the share conducted by land-grant universities declined from 34 to 22 percent. In 2009, non-land-grant universities accounted for 41 percent of Federal nutrition research projects and other institutions (medical schools, hospitals, and research institutions) had a 29-percent share—up from 30 percent and 22 percent, respectively, in 1985. This chart appears in “Federal Support for Nutrition Research Trends Upward as USDA Share Declines” in the June 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Vegetable costs range from 18 cents to $2.58 per cup equivalent

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

When it comes to vegetable consumption, “More Matters.” Eating a variety and sufficient quantity of vegetables is important for good health, but how much would it cost to add some baby carrots, romaine lettuce, or fresh asparagus to your diet? ERS estimated average prices paid in 2013 for 93 fresh and processed vegetables (including beans and peas), measured in cup equivalents. A cup equivalent is the edible portion that will generally fit in a 1-cup measuring cup; 2 cups for lettuce and other raw leafy greens. ERS researchers found that fresh iceberg lettuce, fresh whole carrots, dried pinto beans, and 13 other products cost less than 40 cents per cup equivalent, while 58 vegetables, including fresh romaine lettuce, baby carrots, and canned tomatoes, cost between 40 and 79 cents per cup equivalent. Fresh asparagus, at $2.58 per cup equivalent, is the priciest of these 93 vegetables. The data in this chart are from ERS's Fruit and Vegetable Prices data product.

Over 30 retail fruits cost less than 80 cents per cup equivalent

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Food intake surveys find Americans consuming about half the amount of recommended fruits per day. One reason may be that some consumers perceive fruit to be expensive. ERS calculated average prices paid in 2013 for 63 fresh and processed fruits measured in cup equivalents. A cup equivalent is the edible portion that will generally fit in a 1-cup measuring cup; 1/2 cup for raisins and other dried fruits. The amount of fruit a person should eat per day depends on age, gender, and level of activity. For a 2,000-calorie diet, 2 cup equivalents of fruits per day is recommended. Fresh watermelon at 21 cents per cup equivalent and apple juice (made from concentrate) at 27 cents were the lowest priced fruits, while fresh blackberries, fresh raspberries, and canned cherries were the priciest. Thirty-five fruits cost less than 80 cents per cup equivalent. The data in this chart are from ERS's Fruit and Vegetable Prices data product on the ERS website, updated March 19, 2015.

Motivating Americans to make dietary changes continues to be a challenge

Friday, March 6, 2015

Research has shown that participants in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) tend to consume lower quality diets than nonparticipants. Pessimism about the value of dietary change may be one of the culprits. Analysis of responses to questions in the Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey module of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that 40 percent of SNAP participants indicated that they felt no need to change their diets; in contrast, only 25 percent of higher income shoppers felt no need to make dietary changes. (Higher income adults are those with household incomes above 185 percent of the Federal poverty threshold.) SNAP participants were also more likely than other respondents to agree with the statement "some people are born to be fat and some thin; there is not much you can do to change this.” This may indicate differences in perceptions of self-efficacy among SNAP participants compared to higher income shoppers. Alternatively, it may be that the other stresses of living in poverty make maintaining diet and health as a top priority more difficult. This chart appears in “SNAP Households Must Balance Multiple Priorities to Achieve a Healthful Diet” in the November 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Federal support for nutrition research has more than doubled over the last 25 years

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) are the lead Federal agencies in conducting and funding human nutrition research designed to help ensure a healthy citizenry. A recent ERS analysis of data maintained by DHHS’s National Institutes of Health shows that Federal investments in nutrition research more than doubled in real (inflation-adjusted) terms from 1985 to 2009. All of this growth is due to increased DHHS funding, especially between 1999 and 2003. The number of Federally supported nutrition research projects has similarly grown from 2,178 in 1985 to 4,419 in 2009, with a larger share of support in recent years directed toward studies of the relationship between nutrition and obesity. From 1999 to 2009, the number of DHHS supported projects grew 7.4 percent annually, while USDA supported projects fell by 2.8 percent annually. In 2009, DHHS funded 86 percent of Federal nutrition research projects, and USDA funded 14 percent. This chart appears in the ERS report, Improving Health through Nutrition Research: An Overview of the U.S. Nutrition Research System, released on January 26, 2015.

Americans score low on many measures of diet quality

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Dietary intake data reveal that like most Americans, the dietary patterns of participants in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) do not meet recommendations. ERS researchers used data from the 2003-10 waves of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to assess the diets of adult SNAP participants and other adult respondents relative to the 2010 version of the Healthy Eating Index (HEI). The HEI summarizes how closely one’s diet conforms to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Total HEI scores for adult SNAP participants averaged 46 out of a possible 100 HEI points, compared to 50 for income-eligible adults not receiving SNAP benefits, and 53 for higher-income adults (those with household incomes above 185 percent of the Federal poverty threshold). Adult SNAP participants scored lower on many components of the HEI; sodium intake was the only HEI component on which SNAP participants did better than higher-income adults. An expanded version of this chart appears in “SNAP Households Must Balance Multiple Priorities to Achieve a Healthful Diet” in the November 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Editor's Pick 2014: At home or away, most potatoes are eaten in forms that add calories

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

When advised to “eat your vegetables,” Americans may also need to be reminded “and watch how you prepare them.” ERS researchers recently looked at the types of vegetables and vegetable-containing foods eaten by Americans and found that instead of eating vegetables in their simple, unadorned state, Americans often eat vegetables in ways that add calories and sodium and reduce dietary fiber. For potatoes prepared at home, potato chips were the most commonly eaten form, accounting for 28 percent of potato consumption. In restaurants, fast food places, and other away from home eating places, fried potatoes accounted for 59 percent of potato consumption. Food intake surveys show other potato dishes, such as mashed and scalloped potatoes, are often prepared with added fats and sodium. Baked and boiled potatoes accounted for 19 percent of at-home potato consumption and 12 percent away from home, and the skin was usually not eaten, reducing dietary fiber content. This chart appears in “Healthy Vegetables Undermined by the Company They Keep” in the May 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine. Originally published Monday August 11, 2014.

Editor's Pick 2014: <br>Americans consume more than double the recommended maximum of added sugars

Monday, December 29, 2014

If you have a sweet tooth, you are not alone. A recent analysis of intake data from the 2007-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that U.S. children ate an average of 9.7 teaspoons of added sugars for each 1,000 calories consumed, and adults consumed 8.4 teaspoons of added sugars per 1,000 calories. Added sugars are the sugars, syrups, and other caloric sweeteners added to foods, including table sugar added to coffee and high fructose corn syrup used in soft drinks, ketchup, and other processed foods. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise that added sugars and added fats should account for no more than 258 calories of a 2,000-calorie diet. Half of this maximum coming from added sugars would equal 3.9 teaspoons per 1,000 calories—less than half of what Americans are consuming. The analysis also found that on average, lower-income individuals consumed more added sugars than higher-income individuals. This chart appears in “Food Consumption and Nutrient Intake Data—Tools for Assessing Americans’ Diets” in the October 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine. Originally published Friday October 10, 2014.

Grocery shopping patterns vary by income and SNAP participation

Monday, December 8, 2014

Participants in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) place a high value on how well food keeps when making purchase decisions in the grocery store; a closer look at their shopping behavior may help to explain this. Using data from the Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey module of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), ERS researchers found that SNAP participants and low-income non-SNAP participants had a more difficult time getting to the grocery store than higher income shoppers; 14 percent of both groups reported that it took them more than 30 minutes to get to a grocery store, compared with only 8 percent of higher income shoppers. SNAP shoppers are less likely to shop weekly and more likely to shop once a month or less. This may be related to the monthly distribution of SNAP benefits. Just under 30 percent of SNAP shoppers reported that they shopped once a month or less compared to 15 percent of low-income non-SNAP participants and 8 percent of higher income shoppers. Choosing foods that keep well is likely to be important to consumers that shop less frequently. This chart appears in “SNAP Households Must Balance Multiple Priorities to Achieve a Healthful Diet” in the November 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

SNAP participants value nutrition, but taste and storage qualities matter, too

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Taste rules when it comes to food shopping, according to responses gathered in the Flexible Consumer Behavior Survey module of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Respondents in all three groups analyzed—participants in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), other low-income consumers, and higher-income consumers—ranked taste as the most important factor when buying food from a grocery store. Nutrition was also important to the majority of shoppers, with SNAP and other low-income consumers more likely to rate it “very important” than higher-income consumers. SNAP respondents were also more likely to rank additional attributes, including price, convenience, and how well food keeps, as “very important” than higher-income adults. How well a product keeps was the second most highly-rated attribute among SNAP respondents, a group which typically has less easy access to food stores. This chart appears in “SNAP Households Must Balance Multiple Priorities to Achieve a Healthful Diet” in the November 2014 issue of ERS's Amber Waves magazine.

Americans aren't eating enough dark green, red, and orange vegetables

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Expressing food consumption in terms of density—the amount of food eaten per 1,000 calories—allows a person’s intake to be compared with benchmark densities based on recommendations in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Such comparisons can reveal shortfalls and excesses in American diets. Analysis of intake data from the 2007-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that Americans under-consume whole grains, fruits, low-fat dairy products, and vegetables. In 2007-10, U.S. adults consumed 0.76 cups of total vegetables per 1,000 calories and 0.25 cups of dark green, red, and orange vegetables, while children consumed 0.49 cups and 0.17 cups, respectively. The Dietary Guidelines recommend 1.25 cups of total vegetables and 0.50 cups of dark green, red, and orange vegetables per 1,000 calories for a 2,000-calorie diet. Lower income individuals consumed a smaller amount of dark green, red, and orange vegetables than those with higher incomes. This chart appears in “Food Consumption and Nutrient Intake Data—Tools for Assessing Americans’ Diets” in the October 2014 issue of ERS’s "Amber Waves" magazine.

Americans consume more than double the recommended maximum of added sugars

Friday, October 10, 2014

If you have a sweet tooth, you are not alone. A recent analysis of intake data from the 2007-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that U.S. children ate an average of 9.7 teaspoons of added sugars for each 1,000 calories consumed, and adults consumed 8.4 teaspoons of added sugars per 1,000 calories. Added sugars are the sugars, syrups, and other caloric sweeteners added to foods, including table sugar added to coffee and high fructose corn syrup used in soft drinks, ketchup, and other processed foods. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise that added sugars and added fats should account for no more than 258 calories of a 2,000-calorie diet. Half of this maximum coming from added sugars would equal 3.9 teaspoons per 1,000 calories—less than half of what Americans are consuming. The analysis also found that on average, lower-income individuals consumed more added sugars than higher-income individuals. This chart appears in “Food Consumption and Nutrient Intake Data—Tools for Assessing Americans’ Diets” in the October 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine. Originally published Friday October 10, 2014.

SNAP participants more likely to use nutrition information in fast-food places

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Questions in the 2007-08 and 2009-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) allow researchers to examine demographic and health-related characteristics of consumers who use nutrition information when eating away from home. Using these data, ERS researchers found differences across population subgroups. Participants in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and low-income nonparticipants are less likely to go to fast-food places than are higher-income people. About 85 percent of SNAP participants and low-income nonparticipants said they ate at fast-food places during the previous 12 months, compared with 93 percent of higher-income people. All three groups are about equally likely to notice nutrition information on fast-food menus. However, upon seeing the information, SNAP participants are more likely to use it (52 percent) than low-income nonparticipants (39 percent) and higher-income people (41 percent). This chart appears in “Calorie Labeling on Restaurant Menus—Who Is Likely to Use It?” in the September 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

School foods are the richest source of dairy products in children's diets

Thursday, August 28, 2014

“Back to school” means back to school-provided lunches and breakfasts for many students. Intake data from the 2007-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reveal that school foods provide the highest dairy product density among all food sources in children’s diets. For each 1,000 calories consumed by children age 2-19, school foods offer an average of 1.9 cups of dairy products, compared to 0.9 cups for foods from restaurants and fast food places. School foods are the only food source that meets the recommended amount of dairy products. Foods consumed by children at home contain 1.2 cups of dairy products for each 1,000 calories, higher than the 0.9 cups in food consumed by adults at home. The statistics for this chart are from ERS’s Food Consumption and Nutrient Intakes data product.

At home or away, most potatoes are eaten in forms that add calories

Monday, August 11, 2014

When advised to “eat your vegetables,” Americans may also need to be reminded “and watch how you prepare them.” ERS researchers recently looked at the types of vegetables and vegetable-containing foods eaten by Americans and found that instead of eating vegetables in their simple, unadorned state, Americans often eat vegetables in ways that add calories and sodium and reduce dietary fiber. For potatoes prepared at home, potato chips were the most commonly eaten form, accounting for 28 percent of potato consumption. In restaurants, fast food places, and other away from home eating places, fried potatoes accounted for 59 percent of potato consumption. Food intake surveys show other potato dishes, such as mashed and scalloped potatoes, are often prepared with added fats and sodium. Baked and boiled potatoes accounted for 19 percent of at-home potato consumption and 12 percent away from home, and the skin was usually not eaten, reducing dietary fiber content. This chart appears in “Healthy Vegetables Undermined by the Company They Keep” in the May 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Foods prepared at home are less sodium dense than those from restaurants, but still above guidelines

Monday, July 21, 2014

Reducing sodium intake is a key recommendation in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Intake data from the 2007-10 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) reveal that Americans age 2 and older consumed an average of 1,649 milligrams (mg) of sodium for each 1,000 calories eaten, compared to the recommended maximum of 1,100 mg per 1,000 calories. Foods prepared by restaurants, fast-food places, schools, and other away-from-home sources contain more sodium than foods prepared at home—1,879 mg per 1,000 calories versus 1,552 mg per 1,000 calories. Foods consumed at school cafeterias were found to be less sodium dense than foods eaten at restaurants and fast-food places, but higher than at-home foods. The statistics in this chart are from ERS’s Food Consumption and Nutrient Intakes data product, updated on June 27, 2014.

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