Quality of U.S. Diet Improves, Slightly
Written by Editor   
Wednesday, September 03, 2014 01:22 PM

The quality of Americans' diets has improved somewhat but remains poor overall, and dietary disparity between the rich and poor is growing, a new study shows.  "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.

The new information came from data on more than 29,000 adults -- aged 20 to 85 -- who took part in the 1999 to 2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. The quality of their diets was rated from 0 to 110, with a higher score indicating a healthier diet.

The participants' average dietary score rose from nearly 40 in 1999 to 2000 to almost 47 in 2009 to 2010. More than half of that improvement was due to people consuming fewer trans fats, according to the researchers. Other beneficial changes in Americans' eating habits included increased consumption of whole fruit, whole grains, nuts, legumes and polyunsaturated fats, and reduced intake of sugar-sweetened beverages.

However, people are not eating more vegetables and haven't reduced their consumption of red and/or processed meat. Also, their salt intake has increased.  The study also found that richer people have healthier diets than poorer people, and that this disparity increased between 1999 and 2010. Healthy foods generally cost more and poor people often lack access to stores that sell healthy foods, the researchers noted.

Mexican Americans had the best dietary quality, while blacks had the lowest. Mexican Americans' healthier eating habits may be due to dietary traditions or culture, while blacks' poorer eating habits may be due to lower income and education levels, the researchers said.  The study also found that women tend to have better quality diets than men.