Food and Behaviour Research

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19 February 2015 - NewsWise - Diet Quality Declines Worldwide, but with Major Differences Across Countries

Data intended to inform dietary policies directed at reducing chronic disease, obesity rates


Please find the OPEN ACCESS review on the Lancet - Global Health website here:

Imamura et al., 2015 - Dietary quality among men and women in 187 countries in 1990 and 2010


In a first-of-its-kind analysis of worldwide dietary patterns, a team including researchers from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge found overall diet quality worsened across the world even as consumption of healthier foods increased in many countries. The study compared trends in intakes of healthy versus unhealthy foods in 1990 and 2010 and found major differences by country. Overall, increases in unhealthy foods outpaced beneficial dietary changes, especially in middle-income nations. Results were published in the March issue of The Lancet Global Health.

Internationally, older adults tended to have better quality diets than younger adults, and women tended to eat healthier than men. The team found important relationships between country income and diet quality.

They saw an increase in consumption of healthy foods and nutrients in high and middle-income countries, but little increase in low-income countries. The authors suggest that the positive changes may be due to better storage, transport and availability of out-of-season foods worldwide in higher income countries, improvements in agricultural practices and increased recognition of the importance of healthier diets to minimize diet-related, non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“At the same time, we saw an even stronger association between national incomes and unhealthy diet patterns,” said first author Fumiaki Imamura, Ph.D., a senior investigator scientist at the MRC Epidemiology Unit. “In other words, people in high income countries, and increasingly middle income countries, are among the biggest consumers of unhealthy foods.”