Americans Eating Better…Sort of

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Americans have made a tiny step toward improving their diets, according to a study from Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy in Boston. Dietary intakes were compared on 33,932 adults who took part in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) between 1999 and 2012. Those dietary patterns then were compared to diet recommendations from the American Heart Association (AHA), which ranks diets up to a score of 50. Results showed that diets in the U.S. improved a little during the 13 years, with the average score increasing from 19 to 21.1 (an improvement of 11.6%, but still a failing grade). The improvements reflected slight increases in whole grains to 0.43 servings a day, nuts and seeds to 0.25 servings a day, and decreased intake of sugary beverages (down to ½ serving a day). No improvements were seen in intakes of fruits, vegetables, processed meats, saturated fat, or salt. Despite these tiny gains, only 1.5% of Americans eat an ideal diet that meets recommendations for fruits, vegetables, fish, and whole grains, while minimizing meat, salt, and saturated fat.

In Perspective: Despite a wealth of information on the importance of good nutrition, Americans still average less than a half serving of whole grains a day and a quarter serving of nuts (is that 3 peanuts?). According to the USDA, our average intake of fruits and vegetables is less than four servings a day, with the number one choice being potatoes, typically fried or smothered in sour cream and butter.

Rehm C, Penalvo J, Afshin A, et al: Dietary intake among US adults, 1999-2012. Journal of the American Medical Association 2016; 315:2542-2553.

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