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Diet and cancer: what Americans eat.

Diet and cancer: What Americans eat

In recent years, research groups have issued numerous dietary guidelines for reducing the risk of cancer. They include, for example, recommendations for daily consumption of fruits and vegetables (especially cruciferous ones such as cabbage and greens), whole grains and foods high in vitamins A and C and fiber. They also recommend minimizing consumption of fat, red meats and sal-cured, nitrite-cured, smoke or picked foods -- including bacon and lunch meats. How well do these guidelines reflect what the U.S. population typically eats? Not very well, according to a new study by researchers at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md.

As part of the second National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES II), conducted from 1976 to 1980, a statistically representative sampling of 11,658 black and white adults in the United States was asked to recall everything they ate or drank during the previous 24 hours. The study did not measure quantity, only the type of food eaten. Results, published in the March AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PUBLIC HEALTH, show that the typical diet "fell short" on fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

And, report Blossom H. Patterson and Gladys Block, a lack "was particularly apparent for those food groups potentially the most beneficial." For example, only 16 percent of those surveyed ate high-fiber cereals or whole-grain breads on the day recalled, just 18 percent had at least one cruciferous vegetable and only about 20 percent consumed any fibrous vegetables. Similarly, only 28 percent ate a fruit or vegetable high in vitamin C, and 20 percent consumed one rich in vitamin A. Meanwhile, 55 percent of surveyed adults had red meat, and 49 percent of males and 37 percent of females ate at least one serving of a breakfast meat or lunch meat.

The researchers also identified some demographic trends. For instance, consumption of produce, high-fiber cereals and red meat increased with income; Southerners ate the least high-fiber cereals and red meat; and young white males were least likely to eat foods rich in vitamins A or C.

The results, according to the researchers, can be used to target and tailor educational campaigns. After all, they say, touting the virtues of foods people don't like is not likely to change eating habits dramtically.
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Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 12, 1988
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