Whole grain consumption trends and associations with body weight measures in the United States: results from the cross sectional National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2012

Nutr J. 2016 Jan 22:15:8. doi: 10.1186/s12937-016-0126-4.


Background: The purpose of this study was (1) to describe intakes of total grain and whole grain in the United States over the past 12 years and major dietary sources, and (2) to determine the relationship between whole grain intake and adiposity measures for children and adults.

Methods: Cross-sectional dietary data from the continuous National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-12 (6 2-year cycles) for children 6-18 years (n = 15,280) and adults 19+ years (n = 29,683) were linked to the My Pyramid and Food Patterns Equivalents Databases to assess daily intake of total grain and whole grain. These populations were classified into groups based on average whole grain intake: 0 ounce equivalents (oz eq)/day, > 0 and <1 oz eq/day, and ≥1 oz eq/day. Within these classifications, body mass index, waist circumference, and percent overweight/obese were identified. Regression and logistic regression analyses were used to assess associations between these dependent variables and whole grain intake.

Results: Adults consumed a mean 0.72 whole grain oz eq/day in 2001-02 and 0.97 oz eq/day in 2011-12 and children consumed a mean 0.56 whole grain oz eq/day in 2001-02 and 0.74 oz eq/day in 2011-12. While over 70 % of children and 60 % of adults met daily intake recommendations for total grain, less than 1.0 and 8.0 % percent of children and adults, respectively, met whole grain recommendations in 2011-12. Adults and children who consumed whole grain had significantly better intakes of nutrients and dietary fiber compared to non-consumers. From 2001 to 2012, grain mixed dishes and yeast breads were the leading sources of total grain, while yeast breads and ready to eat cereals were the leading sources of whole grain for both children and adults. Multiple regression analysis showed a significant, inverse relationship between body mass index and waist circumference with respect to whole grain intake after adjustment for covariates in both children and adults (p < 0.05). Similarly, logistic regression analysis showed a significant inverse relationship between percent overweight/obese and whole grain intake (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: Although most children and adults meet daily intake goals for grain foods overall, whole grain as a portion of total grain intake continues to be consumed at levels well below recommendations. The data from the current study suggest that greater whole grain consumption is associated with better intakes of nutrients and healthier body weight in children and adults. Continued efforts to promote increased intake of whole grain foods are warranted.

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight*
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / analysis
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fats / analysis
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Fiber / analysis
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Proteins / analysis
  • Energy Intake
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Micronutrients / administration & dosage
  • Micronutrients / analysis
  • Nutrition Surveys*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Recommended Dietary Allowances
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States
  • Waist Circumference
  • Whole Grains*
  • Young Adult


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Micronutrients