MONDAY, September 19, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Despite everything people have learned about good nutrition, people around the world aren’t eating much healthier than they were three decades ago, according to a new global review.
Diets are still closer to a bad zero — high in sugar and processed meats — than a 100, which is high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains, researchers at Tufts University report.
“Intakes of legumes/nuts and non-starchy vegetables increased over time, but overall improvements in diet quality were offset by increased intake of unhealthy components such as red/processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages 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 from more than 1,100 diet surveys.
The global nutritional score is about 40.3, a small but significant increase of 1.5 points between 1990 and 2018, researchers found.
However, scores varied widely between regions, with average scores 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 nutritional values over 50.
Nations with the highest nutritional scores included Vietnam, Iran, Indonesia and India, while countries with the lowest scores included Brazil, Mexico, the United States and Egypt.
Researchers found that women were more likely to eat healthier foods than men, and older people more likely than younger adults.
“Healthy eating has also been influenced by socioeconomic factors, including educational attainment and urbanity,” Miller said in a university press release. “Globally and in most regions, better educated adults and children with better educated parents generally had higher overall diet quality.”
Poor nutrition is responsible for more than a quarter of all preventable deaths worldwide, the researchers said in background information.
Countries can use this data to guide policies to promote healthy eating, said Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, cardiologist and dean of policy at the Friedman School.