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Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2003 Aug;157(8):789-96.

Reported consumption of low-nutrient-density foods by American children and adolescents: nutritional and health correlates, NHANES III, 1988 to 1994.

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  • 1Department of Family, Nutrition, and Exercise Sciences, Queens College of the City University of New York, Flushing 11367, USA.



To examine the contribution of foods of modest nutritional value to the diets of American children and adolescents.


The data were from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988 to 1994, and included 4852 children and adolescents, aged 8 to 18 years. Foods reported in the 24-hour dietary recall were grouped into the following low-nutrient-density (LND) food categories: visible fat; table sweeteners, candy, and sweetened beverages; baked and dairy desserts; salty snacks; and miscellaneous. The independent association of the number of LND foods mentioned in the recall with intake of food groups, macronutrients, micronutrients, and body mass index was examined by means of regression procedures to adjust for multiple covariates.


The LND foods contributed more than 30% of daily energy, with sweeteners and desserts jointly accounting for nearly 25%. Intakes of total energy and percentage of energy from carbohydrate and fat related positively, but percentage of energy from protein and dietary fiber (in grams) related inversely to the reported number of LND foods (P<.05). The reported number of LND foods was a negative predictor (P<.001) of the amount of nutrient-dense foods reported. The mean amount of reported intake of several micronutrients-vitamins A, B6, and folate, and the minerals calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc-declined (P<.05) with increasing tertiles of reported number of LND foods. The LND food reporting was not a significant predictor of body mass index.


High LND food reporting was related to higher energy intake but lower amounts of the 5 major food groups and most micronutrients.

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