Globally, diets are no longer healthier today than they were thirty years ago

Summary: While the incorporation of legumes and healthy fruits into diets has improved over time, the quality of the diet has been offset by the consumption of unhealthy ingredients, such as processed meats and sugar-sweetened beverages.

source: Tufts University

On a scale of 0 to 100 of how well people adhere to recommended diets, with 0 representing a poor diet (think excessive consumption of sugar and processed meat), and 100 representing the recommended balance of fruits, vegetables, legumes/nuts, and whole grains, most countries would score close to 40.3.

Globally, this represents a small, but meaningful, 1.5 point gain between 1990 and 2018, researchers from Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy report today in the journal nature foods.

The study, one of the most comprehensive estimates to date of global nutritional quality – and the first to include findings among both children and adults – highlights challenges around the world to encourage healthy eating.

Although global gains were modest, there was marked variation by country, with nutritious options becoming more popular in the United States, Vietnam, China and Iran, and less so in Tanzania, Nigeria and Japan.

“Intake of legumes/nuts and non-starchy vegetables has increased over time, but overall improvements in diet quality have been offset by increased intake of unhealthy ingredients such as red/processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, and sodium,” says lead author Victoria Miller. , a visiting scientist from McMaster University in Canada who began this study as a postdoctoral researcher with Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean of Policy and Jan Mayer Professor of Nutrition at the Friedman School, and senior author on the paper.

Food quality in detail

Poor diet is a major cause of disease, responsible for 26% of preventable deaths worldwide. While there is an urgent need for interventions and policies to support healthy eating, little is known about differences in diet quality by demographics such as age, gender, education or proximity to urban areas—useful information for targeting public health campaigns.

Miller and colleagues addressed this gap by measuring global, regional, and national eating patterns among adults and children in 185 countries based on data from more than 1,100 surveys from the Global Food Database, a large, collaborative set of data on levels of food and nutrient consumption worldwide. . The researchers’ primary score was a scale from 0 to 100 known as the Alternative Healthy Eating Index, an approved measure of diet quality.

Regionally, averages ranged from 30.3 in Latin America and the Caribbean to 45.7 in South Asia. The average score for all 185 countries included in the study was 40.3. Only 10 countries, representing less than 1 percent of the world’s population, had scores over 50. The countries with the highest scores were Vietnam, Iran, Indonesia, and India, with the lowest being Brazil, Mexico, the United States, and Egypt.

Globally, among adults, women were more likely to eat the recommended diets than men, and older adults were more likely than younger adults.

“Healthy eating has also been influenced by social and economic factors, including educational and urban level,” Miller says. “Globally and in most regions, more educated adults and children with more educated fathers had generally higher nutritional quality.”

“On average around the world, diet quality was also higher among younger children but then worsened as children got older,” she adds. “This suggests that early childhood is an important time for intervention strategies to encourage the development of healthy food preferences.”

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Poor diet is a major cause of disease, responsible for 26% of preventable deaths worldwide. The image is in the public domain

The researchers note that some of the replica studies to consider include measurement errors in dietary data, incomplete survey availability in some countries, and a lack of information about some important dietary considerations, such as trans fat intake. But the results provide key benchmarks for comparison as new information is added to the global nutritional database.

Turn data into policy

Researchers say that the size and details nature foods The study enables nutrition researchers, health agencies and policy makers to better understand dietary intake trends that can be used to set goals and invest in actions that encourage healthy eating, such as promoting diets consisting of produce, seafood and vegetable oils.

“We have found that both a lack of healthy foods and a lot of unhealthy foods contribute to global challenges in achieving recommended nutritional quality,” Mozaffarian says.

“This suggests that policies that incentivize and reward more healthy foods, such as health care, employer wellness programs, government nutrition programs, and agricultural policies, may have a significant impact on improving nutrition in the United States and around the world.”

The research team then plans to look at estimating how different aspects of poor diets directly contribute to major disease states around the world, as well as modeling the effects of different policies and programs to improve diets at the global, regional and national levels.

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About this diet and health research news

author: press office
source: Tufts University
Contact: Press Office – Tufts University
picture: The image is in the public domain

original search: open access.
The quality of the global diet in 185 countries from 1990 to 2018 shows significant differences by country, age, education and urbanityWritten by Victoria Miller et al. nature foods


The quality of the global diet in 185 countries from 1990 to 2018 shows significant differences by country, age, education and urbanity

Evidence for what people globally eat is limited in scope and accuracy, particularly with regard to children and adolescents. This undermines goal setting and investment in evidence-based actions to support sustainable healthy diets.

Here we measured global, regional and national dietary patterns among children and adults, by age group, gender, education and urban, across 185 countries between 1990 and 2018, on the basis of data from the Global Food Database Project.

Our primary measure was the Healthy Eating Alternative Index, which is a proven score of diet quality; Dietary approaches to stopping hypertension and Mediterranean diet patterns were secondarily evaluated.

Diet quality is generally modest worldwide. In 2018, the average global Alternative Healthy Eating Index score was 40.3, ranging from 0 (the least healthy) to 100 (the healthiest), with regional averages ranging from 30.3 in Latin America and the Caribbean to 45.7 in South Asia. The scores between children versus adults were generally similar across regions, except for Central/Eastern Europe and Central Asia, high-income countries, and the Middle East and North Africa, where children had lower nutritional quality.

Globally, diet quality scores were higher among women versus men, and more so than among less educated individuals.

Diet quality increased modestly between 1990 and 2018 globally and in all regions of the world except for Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, where it did not improve.

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