Recent focus of dietary recommendations has greater emphasis of reliance on plant-based proteins. Before applying broad recommendations, it is important to assess current consumption patterns of plant-based and animal-based protein sources among the US population.
To identify the proportion of US adults who consumed protein types, and their contributions to overall protein source intakes among US adults by sex and age.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
This cross-sectional study examined 24-hour dietary recall data for 35,309 participants from 2005-2018 NHANES. Participants were stratified by sex and age category (20-35, 36-50, 51-70, 71+ years).
Dietary data from the day of intake were used to estimate intakes from protein sources using the Food Patterns Equivalents Database (FPED). Mean intakes of ounce equivalents were generated for FPED protein food categories, aggregated to identify the proportions of protein food sources. Data were weighted to produce nationally representative means and 95% confidence intervals.
On the day of intake, 93% of all participants consumed meat, poultry, or seafood. More adults in the older age groups consumed eggs, nuts/seeds, and seafood high in n-3 fatty acids; whereas, fewer adults in the older age groups consumed meat, poultry, legumes, and soy. On the day of intake, males consumed greater quantities of all protein food categories than all strata. At least 70% of the day's protein food intakes were consumed from meat, poultry, or seafood for all groups. While the proportion of eggs were consistent across all groups, meat, poultry, and seafood ratios decreased across age categories whereas plant protein ratios increased.
Current protein food consumption patterns among US adults were highest from meat, poultry, and seafood rather than plant proteins. While animal-based intakes were slightly lower in older age groups, intakes of plant-based protein sources remain low. Promoting plant-based protein foods may be challenging for many adults with low or absent intakes.