eating and drinking

A new study published in JAMA on dietary intake among US adults from the years 1999 to 2012 has found that parts of the U.S. diet have improved over that time span.

Researchers from the Montefior Medical Center, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and University of Washington have evaluated changes to US dietary trends in terms of diet quality for multiple individual foods and nutrients, unlike previous research which focused on major macronutrients and only a few dietary factors.

In a set of nationally representative surveys asking people what they ate in the last 24 hours between 1999 and 2012, the authors of the study were able to make a couple of interesting observations.

The percentage of Americans with poor diets – what the authors determined as less than 40 per cent of adherence to the primary diet score components of the American Heart Association – declined from 55.9 per cent to 45.6 per cent. These modest improvements are encouraging but prove that the vast majority of Americans still don’t eat an optimal diet.

Among other notable positive changes, Americans are somewhat steering away from processed foods. Participants surveyed are reporting that they eat more whole grains as well as slightly increase their consumption of nuts and seeds while consuming less sugary drinks, white potatoes and refined grains.

However, the authors found no improvements for many foods crucial to health, such as the number of fruits and vegetables.

The team also studied who ate what in America and the corresponding disparities among population subgroups. The diet of non-Hispanic white adults significantly improved whereas similar progress was not observed for non-Hispanic black or Mexican American adults.

The research scientists also found some evidence that diet variability depended on the level of a person’s education and their income level. There were gaps to start, and the gaps are getting bigger.

The penetration of what the latest research presents as healthier alternatives for people living with a chronic disease, such as the low-carb, high-fat diet, is limited to high socio-economic classes.

A growing body of research links food insecurity to uncontrolled diabetes. The inexpensive food favored by people on low incomes is often low in fiber and rich in carbohydrates, which contribute to obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Researchers in California have recently found that low-income people are admitted to the hospital with low blood sugar more often than people with higher incomes towards the end of the month, when food budgets are commonly exhausted.

The choices people make depend on the choices they have, and often health care practitioners forget to ask about the choices people have. For the first time, new treatment guidelines by the American Diabetes Association urge clinicians to ask patients about their access to reasonably healthy food and to propose solutions.