Boston, MA ─ Dietary quality in the U.S. has improved steadily in recent yearsspurred in large part by reduced trans fat intakebut overall dietary quality remains poor and disparities continue to widen among socioeconomic and racial/ethnic groups, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).
"The study provides the most direct evidence to date that the extensive efforts by many groups and individuals to improve U.S. dietary quality are having some payoff, but it also indicates that these efforts need to be expanded," said Dong Wang, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH.
The study appears online September 1, 2014 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Given changes in the economy, in policies related to nutrition, and in food processing since the turn of the century, the researchers decided to investigate recent trends in dietary quality in the U.S. They also investigated trends within different socioeconomic subgroups because differences in diet can contribute to variation in the burden of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Evaluating these trends is important to help guide public health policy and improve strategies to prevent nutrition-related chronic diseases, Wang said.
Data came from a nationally representative sample of 29,124 adults aged 20-85 from the U.S. 1999-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. The scientists evaluated dietary quality over time using the Alternate Healthy Eating Index 2010 (AHEI-2010), which rates dietary quality on a score of 0 to 110 (with higher scores indicating healthier diets), and which strongly predicts major chronic disease. They also used another dietary quality index, the Healthy Eating Index 2010.
Trans fat consumption plummets
The average AHEI-2010 score increased from 39.9 in 1999-2000 to 46.8 in 2009-2010, and the researchers found that mo
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Harvard School of Public Health