- Researchers investigated how global dietary patterns changed between 1990 and 2018.
- They found that diets had become healthier by 2018.
- They concluded that dietary recommendations should be based on local nutrition data.
Data shows that poor diets are responsible for what’s around them
Whereas what constitutes an ideal dietary pattern is largely
Studies looking at the dietary patterns of different countries across a wider age range could improve dietary guidelines and recommendations.
Researchers recently analyzed global, regional and national dietary patterns and trends among adults and children from 185 counties.
They found that between 1990 and 2018, diets became slightly healthier, although the extent of this varied by country.
“In general, healthy diets have become more affordable as countries have become richer,” Dr. Boyd SwinburneHe, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of Auckland, is not involved in the study Medical news today.
The globalization of food also means an increase in the variety of whole foods, and that’s a good thing. But the compensatory powers of ultra-processed foods overpowering whole foods and widening disparities in wealth create unhealthy diets,” added Dr. Swinburne.
The study appears in
The researchers collected data from representative national and subnational surveys on dietary intake at the individual level along with biomarker surveys.
In all, they aggregated data from 1,248 food surveys from 188 countries. Among the surveys, 73.9% included data on children aged 0-19 and 64.5% of adults aged 20 or older.
The researchers obtained data on individual dietary intake of up to 53 foods, beverages, and nutrients along with demographic data, including age, gender, education, and urban or rural residence.
The researchers used the Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI) to determine a healthy diet. Victoria Miller, Ph.D.A research fellow at the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) and a visiting scientist at Tufts University, one of the study’s authors, said, MNT:
“AHEI recommends that individuals consume plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fats, and limited amounts of red and processed meat, and beverages sweetened with sugar and sodium.”
In the end, the researchers regulated the diet on a scale from 0 to 100—with zero being a bad diet, and 100 being a perfect diet.
They found that between 1990 and 2018, the global AHEI score increased a modest 1.5 points — from 38.8 in 1990 to 40.3.
They also found that in 2018, only ten countries representing less than 1% of the world’s population had nutritional scores of 50 or higher. These included Vietnam, Iran, Indonesia and India, with an average score of 54.5.
Meanwhile, the countries with the lowest scores included Brazil, Mexico, the United States and Egypt, with scores ranging from 27.1 to 33.5.
The researchers noted that the average AHEI scores in 2018 for children and adults were similar: they ranged from 38.2 to 42. However, in most regions, those aged 5 and under and 75 or older tended to have the highest AHEI scores.
They further write that children globally tend to consume less fruits, non-starchy vegetables, and omega-3 seafood than adults. However, they also consumed more sodium and polyunsaturated fats than adults.
The researchers further noted that achievement in tertiary education was associated with a higher AHEI score in most regions except the Middle East and North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa, where they observed no differences.
When asked how these findings could improve food choices around the world, Dr. Miller said:
“Our findings are useful for informing the design and implementation of future research and national policies to improve diet quality. Although South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest nutritional quality in 2018, consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes/nuts, and omega-3 seafood fats And polyunsaturated fats were far from optimal in these areas. Policies to increase the intake of produce, seafood and vegetable oils will have the greatest impact on diet quality in these countries.”
“In Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, we have found that red/processed meat and sodium increase over time, and policies focused on reducing intake of these foods and nutrients will significantly improve diet quality,” she added.
Reduced consumption of unhealthy foods and nutrients, such as sugar-sweetened beverages, red/processed meat and sodium, has led to higher diet quality in many countries, including Vietnam. In the USA, a dual focus on increasing healthy foods (fruits, vegetables, and vegetable oils) and decreasing unhealthy foods (drinks sweetened with sugar and sodium) is needed to improve diet quality.”
Dr. Marco Springmann،, a senior researcher in environment and health at the University of Oxford, was not involved in this study, he said MNT:
The study also highlights that there has been little progress in improving diets around the world. This should serve as a wake-up call for policy makers who routinely ignore the need for progressive food policies as interfering too much in the market.”
“Without clear policy measures that will enable citizens to make healthy and sustainable food choices, we risk another decade without progress in improving diets and the associated health and environmental impacts,” he added.
The researchers conclude that their findings highlight the need for specific national and subnational policies to improve nutrition.
When asked about the study’s limitations, Dr. Swinburne said: “Data on diets are known to be challenging. There is always a significant under-reporting – around 20% of calories are not logged under optimal conditions for data collection.”
“However, by taking a miniaturization approach like this, you start to see patterns that can tell you very useful things about fundamental changes over time and differences between populations,” he added.
Dr. Rob M Van DamHe also said, professor of exercise and nutritional sciences at The Milken Institute of Public Health at George Washington University MNTA limitation of these findings is that survey tools and data accuracy vary across countries.
“Also, the nutritional quality indicators used in the study were developed in high-income countries to prevent chronic disease but may be less appropriate for low-income countries where nutrient deficiencies are common,” he added.
Salem Youssef MD, D. PhilThe distinguished professor of physiology and pharmacology at McMaster University, who was not involved in the study, agreed that the data-based guidelines may not apply to most other regions of the world. He noted that nutritional deficiencies are a challenge for many, along with getting an adequate variety of food. He added that cultural customs, taste and cost also affect what people eat.