Intake of Key Chronic Disease–Related Nutrients Among Baby Boomers

Dana E. King, MD, MS; Jun Xiang, MS; Alexander Brown, MA

Disclosures

South Med J. 2014;107(6):342-347. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Abstract

Objectives: The dietary habits of baby boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) undoubtedly will have a substantial impact on their future health; however, dietary information regarding the intake of key chronic disease–related nutrients is lacking for this generation. The objective of this study was to compare the dietary intake of key chronic disease–related nutrients of the baby boomer generation with the previous generation of middle-aged adults.

Methods: National cross-sectional study comparison analyzing data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) including NHANES III (1988–1994) and the NHANES for 2007–2010, focused on adult respondents ages 46 to 64 years who were not institutionalized at the time of each survey. The two cohorts were compared with regard to dietary intake of key nutritional components. The main outcome measures were intake of total calories, sodium, cholesterol, fat, fruits, vegetables, vitamin C, water, and fiber.

Results: The baby boomers' average daily intake of nutrients exceeded that of the previous generation of middle-aged adults for total calories (2118/1999), total fat (82/76 g), sodium (3513/3291 mg), and cholesterol (294/262 g; all P < 0.001). The intake of vitamin C (105/89 g), water (1208/1001 g), and vegetables (199/229 g) was less than that of the previous generation (P < 0.001), and the dietary intake of fruit and fiber was unchanged. In regression analyses, dietary changes remained significant after controlling for age, race, sex, and socioeconomic status (all P < 0.01).

Conclusions: The study findings document higher dietary intake of key chronic disease–related nutrients along with reduced vegetable intake among baby boomers compared with the previous generation of middle-aged adults. These findings are indicative of a diet that may contribute to increased rates of chronic disease among individuals in this age group.

Introduction

The health status of the baby boomer generation (people born between 1946 and 1964) has been questioned in several studies[1–3] that have shown mixed results, such as a lower smoking rate compared with previous generations of middle-aged adults. These studies also demonstrate several signs of poor health, such as increased rates of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, chronic disease, and disability.[1,4] The health of the baby boomer generation is critical to the nation's health for multiple reasons, including the large size of the baby boomer cohort, 78 million people[5] and the economic impact that the health of this generation will have as they age and inevitably experience declining health.

The dietary habits of baby boomers will have a substantial effect on the future health of this generation. As a result, increased chronic conditions such as obesity, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia and specific information regarding caloric intake, sodium intake, and fat/cholesterol intake in the baby boomer cohort will be extremely valuable; however, information regarding dietary intake of key chronic disease–related nutrients is lacking for the baby boomer generation. More information is needed regarding the nutritional intake patterns of this population to direct policy makers and public health planners to improve the nation's health. The goal of this study was to compare the intake of key chronic disease–related dietary nutrients of the baby boomer generation with that of the previous generation of middle-aged adults.

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