Has Our Diet Gotten Healthier? Yes and… No

A new study on the diet of Americans reveals they have gotten slightly healthier, but in other ways they’ve gotten worse.

Unhealthy Diet Going Down

The results of the food-intake study were recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Over a 13-year period, thousands of people across the country were asked about what they had eaten in the last day. National surveys were studied and the findings were not that uplifting, unfortunately. As it turns out, 46% of Americans still eat an unhealthy diet. The good news is the figure used to be 56%. So that’s one positive aspect.

Another slightly inspiring finding is that Americans are drinking less soda and eating fewer refined grains and white potatoes. There was also a small rise in the amount of yogurt, nuts, and seeds the participants consumed. That’s another glimpse of movement in a positive direction.

Progress Lacking

Frighteningly, overall, Americans showed no decline in consuming meat (processed or fresh) or sodium. Eating red meat and an overabundance of salt is linked to heart disease and high blood pressure. Additionally, the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed did not rise at all. (Two essential food groups for optimum health!) How can we begin to lower chronic disease in this country when eating habits continue to remain so unhealthy?

Class, Ethnicity, and Social Disparity

The study’s results also presented a different, yet equally significant problem. White Americans positively altered their diets more than any other group. Minority and lower socio-economic groups improved their habits only at a miniscule level. And worse, Mexican-Americans actually increased their consumption of refined grains, and black Americans ate more white potatoes. A person’s level of education and income played a part in the way he/she improved (or did not improve) his/her diet.

What’s the Fix?

We all know diabetes, obesity, and heart disease are rampant and killing way too many Americans. We can improve our health by “fixing” our diet. But how come not enough people are doing it?

Many doctors, health advocates, and even public policy makers believe government needs to step in more. The argument is that we have safety guidelines for cars, toys, and workplaces, but the ones for food are weak. The food industry basically polices itself and there’s a call for stronger government policy in this area.

Dr. Kelly Brownell, a leading advocate for good nutrition, has written papers and lobbied for stronger federal policy. The sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) tax has shown to be slightly effective in decreasing consumption of soda and sugary drinks. The problem is that the tax is not enough to make the drink economically restrictive. And if it is for some people, they just go to a nearby county where there is no SSB tax. Although this may be one small effort, it’s not strong or pervasive enough to affect great change.

Hopefully, you are on a path of nutritional improvement. Your health matters. For more info on food and good health check out www.GetThrive.com

 


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