Comparison of Nutritional Intake in US Adolescent Swimmers and Non-Athletes

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Swimming is a very popular sport among adolescents in the US. Little is known about the diet of competitive adolescent swimmers in the US but data from other countries indicate several inadequacies, including excessive intake of fat and lower than recommended intake of carbohydrate and several micronutrients that may affect athletic performance and bone accrual. We assessed usual diet, using a food frequency questionnaire and calcium checklist, among 191 adolescent males and females [91 swimmers (mean 13.7, s = 2.5 years) and 100 non-athletes (mean 14.4, s = 2.8 years)]. For both males and females, swimmers and non-athletes generally had similar average intakes of macro- and micro-nutrients, including higher than recommended amounts of total fat (36%) and saturated fat (12%), and inadequate amounts of calcium, vitamin D, and daily servings of fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products. This first study of nutritional intake among adolescent swimmers in the US suggests that dietary habits of adolescents who swim competitively may jeopardize optimal athletic performance and place them at risk for future chronic diseases, including osteoporosis.