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Globally, diets are not much healthier today than they were thirty years ago

Summary: While the incorporation of healthier legumes and fruits into diets has improved over time, the quality of the diet has been offset by the consumption of unhealthy components, such as processed meats and sugary drinks. .

Source: Tufts University

On a scale of 0-100 of how well people stick to recommended diets, with 0 being a poor diet (think high intake of sugar and processed meats) and 100 representing the recommended balance of fruits, vegetables, legumes/ nuts and whole grains, most countries would score around 40.3.

Globally, this represents a small but significant gain of 1.5 points between 1990 and 2018, researchers from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University report today in the journal natural food.

The study, one of the most comprehensive estimates of global diet quality to date – and the first to include results in children and adults – highlights global challenges in encouraging healthy eating.

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

“Consumption of legumes/nuts and non-starchy vegetables increased over time, but overall improvements in food quality were offset by increased consumption of unhealthy components such as red/processed meat, sugary drinks 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 Jean Mayer Professor of Nutrition at the Friedman School, and senior author of the paper.

Food quality in detail

Poor diet is a leading cause of disease, responsible for 26% of preventable deaths worldwide. While interventions and policies to support healthy diets are urgently needed, little is known about differences in dietary quality based on demographics such as age, gender, education or proximity to urban areas – useful information for targeting public health campaigns.

Miller and his colleagues filled this gap by measuring global, regional and national dietary habits among adults and children in 185 countries based on data from more than 1,100 surveys in the Global Dietary Database, a large collaborative compilation of data on global food and nutrient consumption levels. . The researchers’ primary outcome was the 0-100 scale known as the Alternative Healthy Eating Index, a validated measure of diet quality.

At the regional level, averages ranged from a low of 30.3 in Latin America and the Caribbean to a high of 45.7 in South Asia. The average score of the 185 countries included in the study was 40.3. Only 10 countries, representing less than 1% of the world’s population, had scores above 50. The highest-scoring countries in the world were Vietnam, Iran, Indonesia and India, and the worst were Brazil, Mexico, the United States and Egypt.

Globally, among adults, women were more likely to follow recommended diets than men, and older people more than young adults.

“Healthy eating was also influenced by socioeconomic factors, including education level and urbanity,” Miller says. “Overall and in most regions, more educated adults and children with more educated parents generally had higher overall food quality.”

“On average around the world, diet quality was also better in young children, but then deteriorated as children got older,” she adds. “This suggests that early childhood is an important time for intervention strategies aimed at encouraging the development of healthy food preferences.”

Poor diet is a leading cause of disease, responsible for 26% of preventable deaths worldwide. Image is in public domain

Researchers note that some study imitations to consider include measurement errors in dietary data, incomplete availability of surveys in some countries, and lack of information on some important dietary considerations, such as fat intake. trans. But the results offer key benchmarks for comparison as new information is added to the Global Diet Database.

Turning data into policy

Researchers say the scale and detail of the natural food The study allows nutrition researchers, health agencies and policymakers to better understand dietary intake trends that can be used to set goals and invest in actions that encourage healthy eating, such as promoting meals consisting of products, seafood and vegetable oils.

“We found that both too few healthy foods and too many unhealthy foods contributed to global challenges in meeting recommended dietary quality,” Mozaffarian says.

“This suggests that policies that encourage and reward healthier foods, such as in health care, employer wellness programs, government nutrition programs, and agricultural policies, can have a substantial impact on improving of nutrition in the United States and around the world.”

The research team then plans to examine how different aspects of poor diet directly contribute to major diseases around the world, as well as model the effects of various policies and programs aimed at improving diets globally, regional and national.

See also

This shows a diagram of the intestines

About this food and health research news

Author: Press office
Source: Tufts University
Contact: Press Office – Tufts University
Image: Image is in public domain

Original research: Free access.
“Global food quality in 185 countries from 1990 to 2018 shows large differences by nation, age, education and urbanity” by Victoria Miller et al. natural food


Global food quality in 185 countries from 1990 to 2018 shows large differences by nation, age, education and urbanity

Evidence on what people eat around the world is limited in scope and rigor, especially when it comes to children and adolescents. This undermines target setting and investment in evidence-based actions to support healthy and sustainable diets.

Here, we quantified global, regional and national dietary patterns in children and adults, by age group, sex, education and urbanity, in 185 countries between 1990 and 2018, based on data from the Global Dietary Database project .

Our primary measure was the Alternative Healthy Eating Index, a validated diet quality score; Dietary approaches to arresting hypertension and Mediterranean diet score schemes were evaluated second.

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

Globally, diet quality scores were higher among women than among men, and higher among less educated people.

Diet quality increased slightly between 1990 and 2018 globally and in all regions of the world except South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where it did not improve.

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