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Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program

Dietary Assessment in Pregnant Women and Children


In 2000, the Congress passed the Children's Health Act (PL 106-310), which authorized the National Children's Study (NCS), a long-term examination of the effects of environmental influences on the health and development of children. The planned NCS Main Study would have followed 100,000 children from before birth to age 21. However, the NIH Director decided to close the NCS on December 12, 2014, following the advice of an expert review group. When recruitment ended in July 2013, the Vanguard Study had enrolled approximately 5,000 children in 40 locations across the country.

Among the most important environmental influences on maternal, fetal and child health and well-being are nutritional factors. Examining food intake patterns was an important area of study for the NCS because foods are potential vehicles for components that can promote health and for environmental contaminants that can adversely affect health.

To develop methodological recommendations for this aspect of the NCS, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), and the Center for Human NutritionExternal Web Site Policy at Johns Hopkins University directed a literature review on assessing food and dietary supplement intakes in women and children. The NCS also convened a workshop on dietary assessment methodology with experts in the field.

Literature Review

To assist in the planning of the NCS, investigators at the NCI, the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, and Johns Hopkins University contracted with WestatExternal Web Site Policy, a survey research firm, to conduct a comprehensive review of the scientific literature. This work was a collaborative effort of the NIH and Johns Hopkins investigators with Westat nutritionists, and was sponsored by the NCS.

The literature review focused on diet and supplement assessment methodologies, as well as methods of assessing food-borne exposure to environmental contaminants in the age groups targeted by the NCS. The specific groups in the target population include pregnant and lactating women, infants (0 to 12 months), toddlers (13 to 24 months), preschoolers (25 months to 5 years), school age children (6 to 12 years), and adolescents (13 to 18 years).

Learn more about the NCS literature review, including the methodology, age groups, and access individual chapters or the full review.

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