From Our 2010 Archives

Americans Skimp on Fruits and Vegetables

The CDC Says More Needs to Be Done to Improve Access, Availability, and Affordability of Fruits, Vegetables

By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Laura J. Martin, MD

Sept. 9, 2010 -- Americans aren't eating nearly enough fruits and vegetables, the CDC says.

The percentage of Americans eating fruit two or more times every day and vegetables at least three times daily declined slightly compared to a decade ago, before health authorities began to sound the alarm about the nation's obesity epidemic.

The CDC, in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for Sept. 10, said only 32.5% of adults in the U.S. ate fruit two or more times daily in 2009, and just over a quarter of Americans, 26.3%, ate vegetables three or more times per day.

The Healthy People 2010 objectives set by the CDC include goals that 75% of people age 2 and over eat two or more servings of fruit daily and 50% eat three or more servings of vegetables daily.

"The findings underscore the need for interventions at national, state, and community levels, across multiple settings to improve fruit and vegetable access, availability, and affordability as a means of increasing consumption," the CDC says in the news report. "A diet high in fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk for many leading causes of death."

A Look at the Numbers

The new report analyzes data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, an ongoing, state-based telephone survey of civilians in the U.S. aged 18 and over.

The CDC says no state met either of its targets. Washington, D.C., had the highest percentage of adults eating fruit twice or more per day, at 40.2%, and Oklahoma the lowest at 18.1%.

Tennessee had the highest percentage of adults eating the recommended amount of vegetables, at 33%, and South Dakota the lowest at 19.6%.

The CDC says overall prevalence of eating fruit two or more times daily decreased from 34.4% in 2000 to 32.5% in 2009. There was no significant change in vegetable consumption nationally.

The report also reveals characteristics about subgroups that are showing more improvement in reaching CDC goals. For example:

  • 36.1% of women compared to 28.7% of men ate fruit two or more times per day in 2009, and 30.9% of women compared to 21.4% of men ate vegetables at least three times daily.
  • 41.3% of people 65 and older ate the recommended portions of fruit, and 29% ate vegetables three or more times daily.
  • 36.9% of college graduates ate enough fruit, and 32.2% ate the recommended amount of vegetables.
  • 32.9% of people with annual household incomes of $50,000 or more ate the recommended amount of fruits, and 29.4% vegetables.
  • Hispanics had the highest prevalence of fruit consumption at 37.2% but the lowest prevalence of vegetable consumption, 19.7%.
  • 36.9% of college graduates met fruit guidelines, and 32.2% ate the recommended amounts of vegetables.

The five states or areas with the highest percentages of people eating the recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables are:

FRUIT

Washington, D.C. 40.2%

California 40.1%

Vermont (tie) 38.9%

New York (tie) 38.9%

Connecticut 37.6%

Maryland 36.9%

VEGETABLES

Tennessee 33%

Washington, D.C. 32.3%

Maine 30.6%

Oregon 30.5%

New Hampshire 30.4%

The five states with the lowest percentages of people eating the recommended amounts of fruit and vegetables are:

FRUIT

Oklahoma 18.1%

Mississippi 22.9%

South Carolina 23.3%

Kansas 23.8%

Kentucky 24.4%

VEGETABLES

South Dakota 19.6%

Louisiana 21.3%

Mississippi 21.6%

Iowa 21.9%

West Virginia 22.1%

To read the CDC's report, "Healthy People 2010: Objectives for Improving Health," visit http://www.healthypeople.gov/document/pdf/volume2/19nutrition.pdf.

SOURCES: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol 59: pp 1125-1130.

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