Micronutrient requirements do not scale linearly with physical activity-related energy expenditure (AEE). Inactive persons may have insufficient micronutrient intake because of low energy intake (EI). We extracted data from NHANES 2003–2006 on 4015 adults (53 ± 18 years (mean ± SD), 29 ± 6 kg/m2
, 48% women) with valid physical activity (accelerometry) and food intake (2 × 24 h-dietary recall) measures. Total energy expenditure (TEE) was estimated by summing the basal metabolic rate (BMR, Harris-Benedict), AEE, and 10% of TEE for the thermic effect of food, to calculate the physical activity levels (PAL = TEE/BMR). Energy intake (EI) was scaled to match TEE assuming energy balance. Adjusted food intake was then analyzed for energy and micronutrient content and compared to estimated average requirements. The NHANES population was physically insufficiently active. There were 2440 inactive (PAL < 1.4), 1469 lightly to moderately active (PAL1.4 < 1.7), 94 sufficiently active (PAL1.7 < 2.0), and 12 very active participants (PAL ≥ 2.0). The inactive vs. active had significantly lower intake for all micronutrients apart from vitamin A, B12, C, K, and copper (p
< 0.05). The inactive participants had insufficient intake for 6/19 micronutrients, while the active participants had insufficient intake for 5/19 (p
< 0.05) micronutrients. Multiple linear regression indicated a lower risk for insufficient micronutrient intake for participants with higher PAL and BMI (p
< 0.001). Symmetrical up-scaling of PAL and EI to recommended physical activity levels reduced the frequency of micronutrient insufficiencies. It follows that prevalence of insufficient micronutrient intake from food in NHANES might be partly determined by low energy turnover from insufficient PAL.
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