According to new research the American diet has improved over the past years, despite the notoriously gruesome image.
While media is flooded with memes and articles bringing the unhealthy American diet in the limelight, a new research signed by researchers with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston dispels this myth.
According to the research findings, a significant improvement in diet has in fact prevented the death of 1.1 million U.S. citizens. Researchers are cautious about the results. At the same time, the team stated that there is still room for further improvements.
To determine variations in the American diet of the 21st century, the researchers looked at seven different studies. Conducted between 1999 and 2012, the largest included approximately 34,000 U.S. citizens, aged 20 or older at the time.
With increased awareness on food quality, food availability and risks of unhealthy foods, dietary habits have slowly yet increasingly changed. Each of the participants in the seven previous surveys received a new grading in this research. The grading has been performed in accordance with the Alternate Healthy Eating Index. On this scale, 0 represents a poor diet, while 110 represent a perfect, healthy diet. Scaling takes into consideration all food categories, including sugary beverages, processed meats, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and others.
On average, the grading reached 48 points. Which might not seem like much, yet it translated in 1.1 million lives saved from premature deaths due to coronary disease, other heart diseases, diabetes and even cancer. With just an 8 point increase compared to 1999.
The American diet has improved over the past years. What does the dietary improvement translate into? According to the research findings, fewer people still consume trans-fats. Sugary drinks consumption is in a seriously declining trend. As well as processed meats and red meat consumption. However, salt intake spiked during the 1999-2012 timeframe.
On the sunny side, more U.S. citizens have increased the intake of nuts, vegetables and fruits in addition to whole grains and polyunsaturated fatty acids. With this shift in dietary habits, the research team found that several diseases leading to premature are also on the decline.
Heart disease cases have dropped by 9 percent in the same period of time. Type 2 diabetes cases also decreased by 13 percent. Cancer cases dropped by 1 percent. The findings are good news. However, with more room for improvement, the researchers have argued for relentless monitoring and policy changes that advocate healthy eating.
From school meal programs to advocating for city gardens and locally grown food, as well as heavier taxation on sugary drinks and junk food, there are a number of initiatives that can be followed to make the American diet ever healthier.
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