Nutrition and the Health of Young People
Benefits of Healthy Eating
- Proper nutrition promotes the optimal growth and development of children.1
- Healthy eating helps prevent high cholesterol and high blood pressure and helps reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.1
- Healthy eating helps reduce one’s risk for developing obesity, osteoporosis, iron deficiency, and dental caries (cavities).1,2
Consequences of a Poor Diet
- A poor diet can lead to energy imbalance (e.g., eating more calories than one expends through physical activity) and can increase one’s risk for overweight and obesity.1,8
- A poor diet can increase the risk for lung, esophageal, stomach, colorectal, and prostate cancers.9
- Individuals who eat fast food one or more times per week are at increased risk for weight gain, overweight, and obesity.1
- Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages can result in weight gain, overweight, and obesity.1
- Providing access to drinking water gives students a healthy alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Hunger and food insecurity (i.e., reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns because a household lacks money and other resources for food) might increase the risk for lower dietary quality and undernutrition. In turn, undernutrition can negatively affect overall health, cognitive development, and school performance.10-12
Eating Behaviors of Young People
- Most U.S. youth
- Do not meet the recommendations for eating 2½ cups to 6½ cups* of fruits and vegetables each day
- Do not eat the minimum recommended amounts of whole grains (2–3 ounces* each day)
- Eat more than the recommended maximum daily intake of sodium (1,500–2,300 mg* each day) .1,3,7
- Empty calories from added sugars and solid fats contribute to 40% of daily calories for children and adolescents aged 2–18 years, affecting the overall quality of their diets. Approximately half of these empty calories come from six sources: soda, fruit drinks, dairy desserts, grain desserts, pizza, and whole milk.5
- Adolescents drink more full-calorie soda per day than milk. Males aged 12–19 years drink an average of 22 ounces of full-calorie soda per day, more than twice their intake of fluid milk (10 ounces), and females drink an average of 14 ounces of full-calorie soda and only 6 ounces of fluid milk.6
Diet and Academic Performance
- Eating a healthy breakfast is associated with improved cognitive function (especially memory), reduced absenteeism, and improved mood.13-15
*Depending on age and other individual characteristics
- Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture; 2010.
- CDC. Recommendations to prevent and control iron deficiency in the United States. MMWR 1998;47:1–29.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th Edition. Washington, DC, US Government Printing Office; 2010.
- Briefel RR., Johnson CL. Secular trends in dietary intake in the United States. Annual Review of Nutrition 2004;24:401–31.
- Reedy J, Krebs-Smith SM. Dietary sources of energy, solid fats, and added sugars among children and adolescents in the United States. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2010;110:1477–1484.
- Forshee RA, Anderson PA, Storey ML. Changes in calcium intake and association with beverage consumption and demographics: comparing data from CSFII 1994–1996, 1998 and NHANES 1999–2002. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2006;25:108–116.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC, et al. What we eat in America, NHANES 2007–2008, individuals 2 years and over (excluding breast-fed children), day 1 dietary intake data, weighted. Washington, DC, U.S. Department of Agriculture; 2010.
- Institute of Medicine. Preventing Childhood Obesity: Health in the Balance. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2004.
- Kushi LH, Byers T, Doyle C, Bandera EV, McCullough M, Gansler T et al. American Cancer Society guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention: reducing the risk of cancer with healthy food choices and physical activity. CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians 2006;56:254–281.
- Kaiser LL, Townsend MS. Food insecurity among US children: implications for nutrition and health. Topics in Clinical Nutrition 2005;20:313–320.
- Alaimo K, Olson CM, Frongillo EA. Food insufficiency and American school-aged children's cognitive, academic and psychosocial developments. Pediatrics 2001;108:44–53.
- Kleinman RE, Murphy JM, Little M, Pagano J, Wehler CA, Regal K, et al. Hunger in children in the United States: potential behavioral and emotional correlates. Pediatrics 1998;101:1–6.
- Taras HL. Nutrition and student performance at school. Journal of School Health 2005;75:199–213.
- Rampersaud GC, Pereira MA, Girard BL, Adams J, Metzl JD. Breakfast habits, nutritional status, body weight, and academic performance in children and adolescents. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2005;105:743–760.
- Hoyland A, Dye L, Lawton CL. A systematic review of the effect of breakfast on the cognitive performance of children and adolescents. Nutrition Research Reviews 2009;22:220–243.
- Adolescent and School Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
4770 Buford Highway, Northeast, Mailstop K-27
Atlanta, GA 30341
TTY: (888) 232-6348
Hours of Operation
- Contact CDC-INFO