A new study published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrition Journal highlights the nutrition benefits associated with the consumption of grain foods by children and adolescents. An analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2005–2010, found that U.S. children and adolescents who consume certain grains not only enjoy better overall diet quality and greater nutrient intake compared to children who don’t regularly consume grains, but also have diets lower in fat. These findings are compelling given the current focus on childhood obesity, which affects about 12.7 million children and adolescents, approximately 17 percent of youth in America.

Researchers used cluster analysis to identify current patterns of grain consumption in children and adolescents in the U.S. and compared nutrient intakes, including dietary fiber, iron, magnesium and folate, against their counterparts who don’t often eat grain foods. They also evaluated associations between grain patterns of consumption and overall diet quality.

“Insights from these findings can help combat the childhood obesity epidemic that we are facing in this country and further inform how to provide nutritious, well-balanced meals for children,” said study author Yanni Papanikolaou, MPH, vice president, Nutritional Strategies. “We saw nutritional and health benefits from several dietary patterns inclusive of both enriched and whole grain products, which showcases that a diet emphasizing variety of grains is important for meeting nutrient recommendations and achieving a healthy diet.”

When compared against children and adolescents who consume almost no grains, those who consume a combination of whole and enriched grain products exhibit a better overall nutrient intake profile, inclusive of dietary fiber, iron, magnesium and B vitamins. 

Additional findings from the observational research include:

  • Diets that contain grains can have better overall nutrient intakes.
  • Some grain food patterns, both whole and enriched, are beneficial in lowering consumption of saturated fats in children and adolescents.
  • Removing certain grains from the diet of children and adolescents can lead to unintended consequences resulting from lower intake of key nutrients such as fiber, folate, and certain B vitamins.
  • Children and adolescents who consume certain grain foods, including yeast breads and rolls, demonstrate healthier nutrition patterns in other food groups, such as increased consumption of greens and beans, compared to those who don’t.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2005–2010 consists of over 8,300 U.S. children and adolescents ranging in age from 2 to 18 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