MONDAY, Sept. 19, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Despite everything people have learned about good nutrition, people around the world aren’t eating much healthier than they did three decades ago, according to a new global study.
Diets are even closer to a bad score of zero – with lots of sugar and processed meats – than they are to a score of 100 with lots of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains, report researchers at Tufts University.
“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,” said lead author Victoria Miller. She is a postdoctoral fellow at Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Boston.
For the study, researchers measured the eating habits of adults and children in 185 countries, based on data collected from more than 1,100 dietary surveys.
The global overall food score is around 40.3, representing a small but significant gain of 1.5 points between 1990 and 2018, the researchers found.
But scores varied widely across regions, with averages ranging from 30.3 in Latin America and the Caribbean to 45.7 in South Asia.
Only 10 countries, representing less than 1% of the world’s population, had food scores above 50.
The countries with the highest food scores were Vietnam, Iran, Indonesia, and India, while the lowest-scoring countries were Brazil, Mexico, the United States, and Egypt.
According to the researchers, women were more likely to eat healthier than men, and older people more than young adults.
“Healthy eating was also influenced by socioeconomic factors, including education level and urbanity,” Miller said in a university press release. “Overall and in most regions, more educated adults and children with more educated parents generally had higher overall dietary quality.”
Poor diet is responsible for more than a quarter of all preventable deaths worldwide, the researchers said in briefing notes.
Countries can use this data to guide policies that promote healthy eating, said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, cardiologist and dean of policy at the Friedman School.