Boston (DPA) – In a global comparison, women adhere to recommended diets better than men. On average, they eat few fruits and vegetables that are low in starch such as cabbage, cucumbers or tomatoes, and whole grain products, according to a study published in the journal Nature Food. According to studies conducted by researchers led by Victoria Miller of Tufts University (Boston / USA), the lead for women is especially large in high-income countries as well as in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
For their study, the scientists evaluated data from more than 1,100 studies and came up with the dietary behavior of people from 185 countries between 1990 and 2018. The study also includes data from children and teens — something new, according to the scientists. The researchers noted some limitations to the study findings. For example, full data is not available for all countries.
Global Nutrition Quality “Moderate”
In general, people today are not eating healthier than they were 30 years ago, researchers report. “Consumption of legumes, nuts, and non-starchy vegetables has increased over time,” Miller says. “But overall improvements in diet quality have been offset by increased intake of unhealthy foods such as red or processed meat, and drinks sweetened with sugar and sodium.” Sodium is found in table salt, among other things.
On a scale of 0 to 100, indicating how well people adhere to recommended diets, most countries scored around 40 in 2018 – 1.5 points higher than in 1990. A score of 0 indicates a poor diet and 100 for a good, balanced diet. In general, researchers rate nutrition quality worldwide as “moderate.”
Only in sub-Saharan Africa has the value deteriorated over the past 30 years. In South Asia it remained almost the same. The countries with the lowest value were Brazil, Mexico, USA and Egypt (27.1-33.5), and the highest with Vietnam, Iran, Indonesia and India (54.5-48.2).
Education level affects nutrition
The researchers also reported that nutrition is also influenced by socioeconomic factors such as education level. So the better educated adults and their children eat healthier on average. “On the global average, nutrition quality was also better in younger children, but then deteriorated with age,” Miller explains. “This suggests that early childhood is an important time point for intervention strategies to encourage the development of healthy food preferences.”
According to the research team, malnutrition is one of the main causes of diseases. It is estimated to be responsible for 26 percent of all preventable deaths.
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