The quality of children's diet in the United States has improved from what it was a decade ago but is still poor when compared to the optimal standards, reported a recent study.

The study examined the data involving 38,000 children and adolescents and noted that the diet quality has improved significantly between 1999 and 2012 but is no way near the recommended levels. It was also noted that the differences in race and socioeconomic status have an impact on the quality of diet the children consumed.

Diet Quality In US Children

For the study, which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers examined the data of 38,487 children aged between 2 and 18 years obtained from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The diet quality was measured with the help of the Healthy Eating Index score (HEI-2010) with an ideal score of 100 points.

Notably, the overall HEI-2010 score rose from 42.5 to 50.9 during the study period, indicating that the consumption of healthy food increased among children over the decade. Xiao Gu, the lead author of the study, noted that the study results were very encouraging.

Gu, a master’s student in epidemiology from the Brown University School of Public Health, added that though it is obvious that a number of components need improvement, the study results indicate that the country is on the right track toward achieving the set target.

A number of factors are reported to have influenced the improvement of the quality of diet over time, such as an increase in the consumption of whole fruits and a decrease in the intake of empty calories like sugary beverages.

Diet Quality Still Trailing Behind

"The average score for whole grains is only 2, which is far below its maximum of 10, even though we observed a significant increasing trend," Gu said in a press release.

The HEI-2010 score for whole fruit is 5 but the mean consumption score was found to be 2.1. Despite the fact that the dietary quality level has improved over time, "the overall dietary quality remained poor," the researchers wrote.

Role Of Disparities In Quality Of Diet

Meanwhile, it was also observed that the scores of non-Hispanic black children improved from 39.6 in 1999 to 48.4 in 2012 and that of non-Hispanic white children increased from 42.1 to 50.2. It is understood from the findings that though the gap between the two groups is narrowing down, the race disparity clearly exists.

As far as the role of socioeconomic status in children's diet quality is concerned, the disparity is more obvious. The scores of those in the wealthy group increased by 23.8 percent, those in the middle group improved by 19.2 percent and those belonging to the least wealthy economic group rose by 18.2 percent.

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