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Food Survey Shows Areas of Concern, Opportunities for Nutrition InterventionsBy Jim Core
April 27, 2004
In a recent study by the Agricultural Research Service and cooperators, researchers were surprised to find that children in the low-income Lower Mississippi Delta region have diets similar to those of children surveyed in a national study.
Delta residents suffer unusually high occurrences of obesity, heart disease, strokes, cancer, low birth weight and high infant mortality rates. Diets that lack variety and are high in fatty foods may increase the risk of nutrition-related chronic disease for residents in the Delta region.
The latest finding is part of the ongoing Lower Mississippi Delta Nutrition Intervention Research Initiative (Delta NIRI), which ARS established in 1995 to remedy the lack of research into the dietary habits of the high-risk population bordering the Mississippi River in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Delta NIRI has teamed with six institutions of higher learning to form the Lower Mississippi Delta Nutrition Intervention Research Consortium. Researchers from ARS and several consortium institutions reported the findings in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
The published study also found that food and nutrient intakes for African American adults in the Delta were, in general, worse than whites', according to Margaret Bogle, Delta NIRI's executive director. Nutrient intakes of children did not differ by race. Poor nutrient intakes were also associated with low income.
According to Bogle, the relatively better quality of children's diets in the Delta might reflect the importance of nutrition assistance programs, because the rate of participation in national school lunch and breakfast programs is high in the Delta. Evaluations of these programs have shown favorable effects on children's diets.
A telephone survey collected food intake data from a representative sample of households in 36 lower Delta counties. Findings from the Foods of Our Delta Study are helping ARS researchers evaluate the nutritional health of the residents, identify nutritionally responsive problems and design and evaluate interventions to address the problems. Once interventions are in place, additional surveys will monitor change in diet and eating patterns.
ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.