The National Nutrition Monitoring And Related Research Program

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"Growing recognition of the relation of food to health and its consequent social implications has created widespread interest in estimates of the adequacy of diets of different population groups." That statement, written in 1939 by Hazel K. Stiebeling and Esther F. Phipard in the introduction to an early survey report from the USDA, still rings true (32). Although tremendous progress in evaluating dietary adequacy occurred during the first hundred years of nutrition research, many research needs remain. In contrast with W. O. Atwater's landmark work in the late 1880s and early 1890s (11), which yielded information only on dietary energy, protein, fat, and carbohydrate, national food consumption surveys at the end of the twentieth century provide information on about 40 additional nutrients and dietary components. Yet, as we face the new millen nium, there are still nutrients for which the analytical methodology continues to evolve, and there are still blanks in our understanding of the relationships between diet and health.

Nutrition research encompasses many different fields, ranging from agriculture and economics to biochemistry and medicine. The missions of many different agencies of the U.S. government include responsibility for monitoring or promoting the health of different population subgroups. In the 1990s, with passage of the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act of 1990 (PL. 101-445), the federal government set in place a comprehensive plan to link all the agencies engaged in food and nutrition monitoring activities.

The 1990 Act required the federal government to develop the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Program (NNMRRP) along with a Ten-Year Comprehensive Plan for Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research. As required by law, the plan was transmitted by the President to Congress and was published in the Federal Register on June 11, 1993 (33). The NNMRRP in the United States is a complex system of coordinated activities that provides information about the dietary, nutritional, and related health status of Americans; the relationships between diet and health; and the factors affecting dietary and nutritional status. The Ten-Year Plan serves as the basis for planning and coordinating the activities of the more than 20 federal agencies responsible for nutrition monitoring and related research activities. The primary goals of the plan are to ensure that the agencies participating in the NNMRRP collect data that are continuous, timely, and reliable; coordinate data collection with other member agencies; use comparable methods for data collection and reporting of results; and conduct research on the issues and topics relevant to monitoring the nutritional and health status of the population and subgroups at nutritional risk.

Prior to the NNMRR Act of 1990, nutrition monitoring research was conducted as a part of the National Nutrition Monitoring System (NNMS). The history of the goals and milestones of federal nutrition monitoring in the United States can be found in Refs. 34 to 37.

Two comprehensive reports on nutrition monitoring activities conducted as part of the NNMS were published in the late 1980s. The first report, Nutrition Monitoring in the United States: A Progress Report from the Joint Nutrition Monitoring Evaluation Committee, was prepared by a federal advisory committee jointly sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the USDA (36). The report provided an overview of the dietary and nutritional status of the U.S. population and was intended to serve as a reference, or baseline, for subsequent reports. The two major data sources for that report were the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 1976-1980 conducted by HHS and the NFCS of 1977-1978 conducted by the USDA. The second report, Nutrition Monitoring in the United States: An Update Report on Nutrition Monitoring (37), used data produced or released since publication of the 1986 report to provide an update on the dietary and nutritional status of the U.S. population and on selected health conditions and behaviors.

Table 3. Comparison of the Average American Diet Against Food Guide Pyramid Recommendations

Food group

Recommended range of servings

Average number of servings consumed per day, two-day average

Percentages of individual consuming servings recommended based on caloric intake, two-day average"

Grain group

6 to 11

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