Recent Uptrend in Whole-Grain Intake Is Absent for Low-Income Adolescents, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005-2012.


Whole-grain consumption reduces risk of chronic disease, yet adolescents consume suboptimal amounts. It is unclear whether trends in consumption of whole grains have been positive among adolescents, and research assessing disparities by socioeconomic status is limited. The objective of our study was to evaluate recent trends in whole-grain consumption by US adolescents.


We examined data on 3,265 adolescents aged 13 to18 years from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2005-2012. Intake of whole and refined grains was analyzed by using generalized linear models, and odds of no whole-grain intake were examined with logistic regression, adjusting for socioeconomic and demographic factors. We evaluated trends and examined heterogeneity of trends with respect to annual household income.


Daily whole-grain consumption among adolescents increased overall by about a quarter-ounce-equivalent per day (oz-eq/d) (P trend <.001). We found a significant relationship between whole-grain intake and income. Daily whole grains (recommended as ≥3 oz-eq/d), increased (0.6 to 1.0 oz-eq/d) among high-income adolescents (P trend < .001) but remained at 0.5 oz-eq/d for low-income adolescents. The ratio of whole grains to total grains (recommended to be at least 50%) rose from 7.6% to 14.2% for high-income adolescents (P trend < .001), with no significant trend for the low-income group. Consumption of refined grains did not change. Odds of having no whole grains trended downward, but only for the high-income adolescents (P trend = .01).


These data show significant (albeit modest) trends toward increased intake of whole grains among high-income adolescents nationwide that are absent among low-income peers. Future interventions and policies should address barriers to whole-grain consumption among this vulnerable group.