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J Am Diet Assoc. 2003 Aug;103(8):1008-14.

Ethnic differences in the nutrient intake adequacy of premenopausal US women: results from the Third National Health Examination Survey.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.



To examine the adequacy of dietary intake of calcium; folate; and vitamins C, D, E, B-6, and B-12 in premenopausal US women of differing ethnicity.


Analyses of single and duplicate 24-hour recalls were conducted to determine dietary intake during the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.


Three thousand five hundred eighty-five randomly selected women aged 20 to 50 years from across the United States who were not pregnant or lactating were examined between 1988 and 1994.


Usual nutrient intake distributions were estimated using the Iowa State University method for adjustment of the distribution. The Estimated Average Requirement cut-point method was used to determine the proportion of women with inadequate intake for each nutrient in each ethnic group.


More than 75% of women irrespective of ethnic group had usual intakes of calcium lower than the new Adequate Intake. More than 90% of the women had inadequate intakes of folate and vitamin E from food sources alone. More than half of smokers had inadequate intakes of vitamin C. Intakes of vitamins B-6 and B-12 were low in less than 10% of these women.


This article provides evidence that a high proportion of premenopausal US women are underconsuming a variety of nutrients. Dietary intakes alone are not currently adequate to meet the new recommended intakes. Nutritional supplement use is widespread and effective, but does not eliminate the concerns for at-risk populations. Awareness of the general inadequacies in intakes of vitamin E and folic acid at large, and in many women vitamin C as well, can help direct individual dietary recommendations and place the emphasis in group counseling on nutrients that are of widespread concern. In addition, foods rich in vitamins B-6 and of general nutritional benefit should be emphasized among African American women in the United States as a substantial proportion of this group is still showing inadequate intakes from foods.

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