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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals

Possible Concentrations of an Essential Element in the Diet

Looking at the dietary intakes of people with disabilities

By Eric Ciappio

There are approximately 56 million Americans living with disabilities, and living with a disability is associated with a higher likelihood of having health issues such as obesity, hypertension, and many others. People with disabilities need to pay attention to their diet and lifestyle to help support their health just like anyone else, but relatively little is known about what these individuals are consuming.  

Enter An and colleagues, who used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to identify the relationship between disabilities and nutrient intake among American adults. They found that, like the American public at large, significant proportions of disabled Americans did not meet the recommended intakes for nutrients like vitamin D, calcium, and dietary fiber. The investigators also reported that nutritional insufficiency tended to be correlated with the severity of disability. And compared to those without a disability, people with a disability were more likely to consume insufficient amounts of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and potassium.

Aside from the obvious – that persons with disabilities have a higher odds of having inadequate nutrient intakes - this report reminds us of two things: 1) there is a tremendous knowledge gap regarding the diet and health status of many specific subpopulations, such as people with disabilities, and 2) at-risk populations, such as persons with disabilities, are groups which can benefit more than most from tools aimed to support dietary quality. This paper does an excellent job at helping to close this knowledge gap, however the next step should be looking at the impact of targeted interventions to help those with disabilities improve their diets.

Fortunately, we live in a world with many tools to help our diets, like dietitians to help guide us to the right food choices, and convenient access to fruits and vegetables, fortified foods, and dietary supplements. Regardless of whether you live with a disability, it is always important to close any nutrient gaps present in our diets to help support your health.


Main Citation:

An R, Chiu CY, Zhang Z, Burd NA. Nutrient intake among US adults with disabilities. J Hum Nutr Diet 2014; doi:10.111/jhn.12274

Supporting Citations:

Brault MW. Americans with disabilities: 2010. Current Population Reports, P70-131. Washington (DC): US Census Bureau; 2012.

Fulgoni VL III, et al. Foods, fortificants, and supplements: where do Americans get their nutrients? J Nutr 2011; 141(10): 1847-1854.