The US Department of Agriculture recently boosted its recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption in its new MyPyramid food guide. But a study published in this month's issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association simultaneously found most of the population hasn't even been able to keep up with the previous, less stringent guidelines.
The odds of consumers meeting the new standard for nutrient intake through eating fresh vegetables alone consequently look even bleaker and could create an opportunity for formulators to market such ingredients and bridge this gap.
The study, conducted by researchers at the USDA and the National Cancer Institute, found in 1999 to 2000, just 40 percent of the American population met the then current recommendations to eat an average of five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The figures were as low as ten percent among girls ages four to eight, and as high as 60 percent among men ages 51 to 70.
Ingredients makers insist fruit and vegetable-based nutraceuticals are not meant to replace a well-balanced intake of the real thing, but rather to compliment their diet.
On the basis of nutritionists recommending more fruits and vegetables, companies like PL Thomas have launched fruit and vegetable based ingredients ranging from apple, to artichoke, to onion to salad extracts. On its web site, the New Jersey-based ingredient distributor explains its "food origin ingredients" can be "used in a variety of formulations to provide supplemental servings of traditional foods".
Pure Fruit Technologies has banked on tempting consumers with a thirst for a quick nutrient fix with its "fruitaceutical" beverages. The Utah-based manufacturer calls the drinks "nutritional juice supplements".
The company claims the juices have been big sellers, with production of flagship product, mangosteen fruit based supplement, Mango-xan growing from 6,500 bottles a month in 2004 to 52,000 bottles a month in 2005.
If the USDA succeeds in generating a sense of urgency regarding eating more fruits and vegetables, not only could formulators who sell fruit and vegetable extracts stand to benefit, more innovation surrounding the issue could take place.
The researchers conclude with a call to action:
"Nutrition and other health-care professionals must help consumers realize that for everyone over age 3 years, the new recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake are greater, and in many cases much greater, than the familiar five servings per day."
Formulators could perhaps compensate for some of the lack of darker-colored yet healthier vegetables in the US diet. The study found Americans on average eat less than a third of the recommended amounts of dark green and orange vegetables. These vegetables tend to richer in beneficial nutrients such as antioxidants.
The new MyPyramid recommendations are 2 to 6 ½ cups per day of fruits and vegetables. The researchers reported that adequate intakes of fruits and vegetables ranged from a low of 0.7 percent of boys age 14 to 18 years, whose combined recommendation is five cups, to a high of 48 percent of children age 2 to 3, whose combined recommendation is one cup. Among women age 51 to 70 years, only 17 percent met their combined recommendation. Among all other sex-age groups, fewer than 11 percent met their goals.