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Researchers Find That Certain Grain Foods Provide Shortfall Nutrients to Children

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Grain Foods Foundation
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Both whole and enriched grains are meaningful contributors, according to a new study published in Nutrients

February 23, 2017 — Washington, D.C. — Certain grain foods have been found to be meaningful contributors to the nutrient intake of children according to a new study published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients. Researchers concluded that grain foods contribute a variety of essential nutrients, including fiber, dietary folate, iron, B vitamins and vitamin A, to the diets of American children and adolescents.

These findings are especially compelling in light of the fact, as noted in the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, that most American children do not consume enough fiber, iron, vitamin A or folate, a situation that may post a public health concern.[1] These nutrients are involved in the development and healthy growth of children; most notably, fiber promotes digestive health and vitamin A supports immune function and vision, while iron is important in metabolism and oxygen transport in the body and B vitamins play a key role in supporting metabolism and cell health.[2]

The findings emphasize the nutrient density of both whole and enriched grain food products, including breads, rolls, tortillas and ready-to-eat cereals. These grain foods can play a key role in helping youth meet the recommended amounts of essential nutrients in their daily diet.

“Not meeting nutrient recommendations can stall childhood development, ranging from stunting growth to cognitive delays,” says Dr. Dyan Hes, MD, medical director of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York City. “Ensuring that our children consume adequate amounts of essential nutrients will facilitate success in the classroom as well as happy and healthy development.”

While grains only make up 5.18 percent (by mean gram weight) of the total diet in children and adolescents, these foods account for nearly a quarter of the daily requirement for dietary fiber, nearly 40 percent of dietary folate, 34.8 percent of iron, 16.4 percent of vitamin A and 13.7 percent of magnesium in the diets of this age group. Additional consumption of grain products as part of a healthy diet while staying within recommended calories, could help these age groups meet their recommended intake of nutrients.

“We understand that children don’t consume enough of certain key nutrients, yet our research shows certain grain foods, which are often children’s favorites, provide meaningful contributions to those nutrients lacking in their diets,” said study author Yanni Papanikolaou, MPH, vice president of Nutritional Strategies. “With this insight, we can hypothesize that if children consume more of these grain products, they could get closer to recommended nutrient intakes.”

Additional findings from the analysis include:

  • Grains and grain-based foods contribute more fiber to the diets of children and adolescents than fruit or vegetables alone.
  • Ready-to-eat cereals, breads, rolls and tortillas contribute more nutrients to the diets of children and adolescents than any other grain category.
  • Breads, rolls and tortillas are meaningful sources of thiamin, folate, dietary fiber, iron and niacin.
  • Ready-to-eat cereals contribute meaningful levels of fiber, iron, vitamin A, zinc and B vitamins (such as dietary folate, thiamin, vitamin B12, and niacin), while providing only minimal amounts of sodium, sugar, fat and saturated fat to the daily diets of children and adolescents.

The analysis leveraged data from two National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data sets (2009–2010; 2011–2012), which consisted of more than 6,100 U.S. children and adolescents ranging from two to eighteen years old. This data analysis was conducted in partnership between Grain Foods Foundation and Nutritional Strategies.

For more information about the research findings, and to learn more about grain foods’ role in a healthful diet, please visit GrainFoodsFoundation.org.

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About Grain Foods Foundation

Formed in 2004, Grain Foods Foundation (GFF) is a group of thought leaders and advocates for all grain foods and believes everybody needs grain food to enjoy a happy and healthy life. Committed to nutrition education programming that is firmly rooted in science, GFF is a strong advocate for our members and a resource for consumers and the media who want to learn more about the role of grains in a well-balanced eating pattern. GFF offers research-based information and resources to members, partners, influencers, policymakers and consumers through a comprehensive communications campaign, conferences, webinars, research tools, social media and more. GFF is committed to bringing fact-based information and common sense to the consumer. For more information, visit GrainFoodsFoundation.org.

About Nutritional Strategies

Nutritional Strategies is a scientific consulting firm that specializes in helping food and beverage companies develop and communicate science-based claims about their products and services. Nutritional Strategies also publishes evidence-based nutrition-related articles in the peer-reviewed literature every year.

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[1]  U.S. Department of Agriculture, ”Food and Nutrient Intakes, and Health: Current Status and Trends,” (February 2015). Retrieved February 22, 2017 from https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/06-chapter-1/d1-2.asp.

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Micronutrient Facts,” (March 31, 2015). Retrieved February 22, 2017 from https://www.cdc.gov/immpact/micronutrients/.