Increasing Plant Based Foods or Dairy Foods Differentially Affects Nutrient Intakes: Dietary Scenarios Using NHANES 2007-2010

Christopher J Cifelli, Jenny A Houchins, Elieke Demmer, Victor L Fulgoni
Nutrients 2016 July 11, 8 (7)
Diets rich in plant foods and lower in animal-based products have garnered increased attention among researchers, dietitians and health professionals in recent years for their potential to, not only improve health, but also to lessen the environmental impact. However, the potential effects of increasing plant-based foods at the expense of animal-based foods on macro- and micronutrient nutrient adequacy in the U.S. diet is unknown. In addition, dairy foods are consistently under consumed, thus the impact of increased dairy on nutrient adequacy is important to measure. Accordingly, the objective of this study was to use national survey data to model three different dietary scenarios to assess the effects of increasing plant-based foods or dairy foods on macronutrient intake and nutrient adequacy. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2007-2010 for persons two years and older (n = 17,387) were used in all the analyses. Comparisons were made of usual intake of macronutrients and shortfall nutrients of three dietary scenarios that increased intakes by 100%: (i) plant-based foods; (ii) protein-rich plant-based foods (i.e., legumes, nuts, seeds, soy); and (iii) milk, cheese and yogurt. Scenarios (i) and (ii) had commensurate reductions in animal product intake. In both children (2-18 years) and adults (≥19 years), the percent not meeting the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) decreased for vitamin C, magnesium, vitamin E, folate and iron when plant-based foods were increased. However the percent not meeting the EAR increased for calcium, protein, vitamin A, and vitamin D in this scenario. Doubling protein-rich plant-based foods had no effect on nutrient intake because they were consumed in very low quantities in the baseline diet. The dairy model reduced the percent not meeting the EAR for calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D, magnesium, and protein, while sodium and saturated fat levels increased. Our modeling shows that increasing plant-based foods could lead to unintended dietary outcomes without simultaneous changes in the types and amounts of plant foods currently consumed. Increasing dairy foods, which are currently under-consumed, could assist in improving the intakes of many nutrients of concern.

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