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Brown and beige dominate the plate: Daily dose of color needed to fill America's 'phytonutrient gap'

Grand Rapids, Mich., Oct. 15, 2009 While it is a well-known fact that most Americans do not eat enough fruits and vegetables, a new report shows the color of fruits and veggies eaten can be as important as the quantity. Eight in 10 Americans are missing out on the health benefits of a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables, resulting in a phytonutrient gap with potential health consequences, according to America's Phytonutrient Report released today.

"Many phytonutrients are powerful antioxidants that can help fight the damage caused to our bodies' cells over time that can lead to premature aging and disease," said Stephen Fortmann, M.D., director of the Stanford Prevention Research Center at Stanford University. "The fact that Americans are falling short in phytonutrient-rich fruits and vegetables measured in the report is concerning," Fortmann added.

America's Phytonutrient Report was conducted by Exponent* for NUTRILITE, the world's leading brand of vitamin, mineral, and dietary supplements, using National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) and USDA data which captures what Americans eat daily.

The report looked at fruit and vegetable consumption in five color categories, specifically green, red, white, blue/purple and yellow/orange. The health benefits of phytonutrients are believed to come from the compounds that give these foods their vibrant reds, yellows, greens and other rich colors. Americans have a phytonutrient gap in every color category. Findings showed:

  • The biggest phytonutrient gap was found in the blue/purple fruit and vegetable category where 88 percent of Americans fall short.
  • Americans are doing a little better on getting phytonutrients found in green fruits and vegetables 69 percent fall short.
  • Seventy-eight percent of Americans are falling short in the red, 86 percent in white and 79 percent in orange/yellow.

"America's Phytonutrient Report illustrates that we need to think about more than just quantity when it comes to our fruits and vegetables," said Amy Hendel, a registered physician assistant and health/wellness expert working with the NUTRILITE brand on a new campaign to educate people about phytonutrients and the importance of eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. "A daily dose of color could result in positive health benefits," Hendel added.

By looking at phytonutrient intakes among Americans who meet their daily fruit and vegetable recommendations, the report identified "prudent intake" levels for 14 select phytonutrients in the absence of government guidelines for phytonutrients. The gap was then determined by comparing the "prudent intake" levels with intakes of average Americans.

The select phytonutrients analyzed within each color category of America's Phytonutrient Report included EGCG, isothiocyanate, lutein/zeaxanthin and isoflavones for green, lycopene and ellagic acid for red, allicin and quercetin for white, anthocyanidins and resveratrol for purple/blue, and alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, hesperitin and beta-cryptoxanthin for yellow/orange.

New Phytonutrient Spectrum Helps Americans Close Phytonutrient Gap

To see whether they have a phytonutrient gap, people can check out the colorful new NUTRILITE Phytonutrient Spectrum, which brings to life the colors, health benefits and fruits and vegetables associated with phytonutrients at There they can also find Your Daily Phytonutrient Snapshot, which helps determine by color the fruits and vegetables of which they need to eat more to help close their individual phytonutrient gap.

The NUTRILITE Phytonutrient Spectrum was inspired by New York artist Tattfoo Tan who is known for using large-scale and interactive public art to educate people about nutrition.

Filling the Phytonutrient Gap

While many people find it difficult to eat the recommended five to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables, Hendel suggests aiming for two fruits and/or vegetables from each of the five color categories on the Phytonutrient Spectrum per day.

There are thousands of phytonutrients gaining attention in the nutrition world, according to Hendel. "Phytonutrients offer a wide range of potential health benefits from promoting eye, bone and heart health to supporting immune and brain function," she said.

Some phytonutrients, like lycopene from red tomatoes or cartenoids found in oranges and carrots, may sound familiar, while others such as lutein found in greens like spinach and broccoli or allicin found in garlic are just being recognized.

"While eating whole fruits and vegetables first is the goal, natural, plant-based supplements like those made by Nutrilite can help fill the phytonutrient gap," Hendel said.

Ongoing Shortfall in Fruit/Vegetable Consumption

America's Phytonutrient Report comes on the heels of a recent report released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that showed no U.S. state meets national objectives for fruit and vegetable consumption. The report noted that "a diet high in fruits and vegetables is important for optimal child growth, maintaining a healthy weight and prevention of chronic diseases"

"America's Phytonutrient Report is another confirmation that we are not getting enough fruits and vegetables in our diet," said Douglas MacKay, a licensed naturopathic doctor and vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition. "There are many reasons people struggle to get the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, from portability to convenience to availability," MacKay added. "Supplements should never take the place of whole foods, but high-quality vitamin and mineral supplements can play a role in promoting good health and helping prevent disease."

Why Plant-based Supplements?

Nutrients from freshly harvested plants are used to make NUTRILITE supplements. NUTRILITE is the only global supplement brand to grow, harvest and process plants on its own certified organic farms.

Plants develop more protective phytonutrients when they aren't exposed to pesticides or artificial farming practices. By concentrating and extracting phytonutrient compounds right at the time of harvest, the potency remains high.


Contact: Jennifer Mann
Weber Shandwick Worldwide

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