Dietary patterns of children and adolescents often lack vitamins

April 4, 2012

Many children and adolescents in Germany and the US are adherent to a western diet, which is typically low in beta-carotene, vitamins A, C, D, E, K and folate.

Based on the German Health Interview and Examination Survey for Children and Adolescents, data from a comprehensive dietary history interview conducted among 1272 adolescents age 12 to 17 were analyzed (1). Dietary patterns (“healthy”, “traditional” or “western diet”) were determined based on 48 food groups, separately for boys and girls. The study results showed that among boys, high adherence to the “western” pattern – characterized by higher consumption of take-away food, meat, sweets, and soft drinks – was associated with higher age, lower socioeconomic status (SES), and lower physical activity level (PA). High adherence to the “healthy” pattern among boys was associated with higher SES, as well as higher PA. Among girls, high adherence to the “traditional and western” pattern was associated with lower age, lower SES and more hours watching TV per day. The nutrient density of several vitamins and minerals, particularly of B-vitamins and calcium, rose with increasing scores of the “healthy” pattern among both sexes. Conversely, with increasing scores of the “western” pattern among boys, most nutrient densities decreased, particularly beta-carotene, vitamin D, biotin and calcium. Among girls with higher scores of the “traditional and western” pattern, nutrient densities of vitamin A, C, E, K and folate decreased. No significant associations between dietary patterns and obesity were found.

The researchers concluded that since higher scores for “western” dietary patterns, characterized by lower nutrient densities of several vitamins and minerals, were found particularly among 16- to 17-year-old boys and among adolescents with lower SES, nutritional interventions should try to focus more on those groups in general.

Based on data from NHANES, a representative, ongoing and cross-sectional survey of nutrition in the US population, an analysis of nutrient levels in children and adolescents showed that many of the 6- to 12- and 13- to 18-year-olds had vitamin intakes significantly below the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) (2). Particularly among those who did not consume fruit juice, intakes below EAR were found for vitamin E (92%), vitamin A (42%), vitamin C (39%), folate (22%) and magnesium (46%). Consumers of 100% fruit juice showed a significantly lower incidence of insufficient intakes (E: 88%, A: 24%, C: 0.1%, folate: 9%, Mg: 26%).



  1. Richter A. et al. Dietary patterns of adolescents in Germany – Associations with nutrient intake and other health related lifestyle characteristics. BMC Pediatr. Published online March 2012.
  2. O’Neil C. E. et al. Fruit juice consumption is associated with improved nutrient adequacy in children and adolescents: the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003–2006. Public Health Nutr. Published online March 2012.