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Most Americans – Except the Poor – are Eating Better

Update Date: Sep 03, 2014 02:34 PM EDT
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Healthy dieting is important for overall wellbeing. According to a new study, many Americans with the exception of the poor are eating better today than they were before. The researchers reported that the food inequality problem should be addressed.

"Socioeconomic status was associated strongly with dietary quality, and the gaps in dietary quality between higher and lower SES [socioeconomic status] widened over time," the study authors wrote according to the Washington Post.

For this study, the researchers analyzed data taken from the 1999-2010 national health surveys with the help of federal estimates of trans fat consumption and an index of healthy eating, which was created by researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health. The index measured people's healthy eating habits on a numerical scale where the perfect score was 110. In order to get high scores, people would have to eat more heart-healthy foods, such as vegetables and fruits, whole grains and healthy fats.

The researchers found that overall, from 1999 to 2010, the average healthy index score for American adults increased from 40 to 47. Despite this increase, the team found a discrepancy between poor and rich people. In the beginning from 1999 to 2000, low-income adults averaged four points lower on the healthy index score, which was also lower than the average nation's score, in comparison to high-income adults. By 2009-2010, the difference in average healthy index score between poor and rich adults increased to six points.

"Price is a major determinant of food choice, and healthful foods generally cost more than unhealthful foods in the United States," the study authors said.

The researchers stated that a low healthy index score was linked to an increased risk of obesity and chronic illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Efforts should be taken to prevent the gap between poor and rich people's eating habits from widening.

The study, "Trends in Dietary Quality Among Adults in the United States, 1999 Through 2010," was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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