On a scale from 0 to 100 of how well people stick to recommended diets, with 0 being a poor diet (think heavy consumption of sugar and processed meats), and 100 representing the recommended balance of fruits, vegetables, legumes/nuts and whole grains, most countries would earn a score around 40.3. Globally, this represents a small, but meaningful, 1.5-point gain between 1990 and 2018, researchers from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts report today in the journal Nature Food.
The study, one of the most comprehensive estimates yet of global dietary quality—and the first to include findings among children as well as adults—highlights the challenges worldwide to encourage healthy eating. Although global gains were modest, there was notable variation by country, with nutritious options becoming more popular in the United States, Vietnam, China, and Iran, and less so in Tanzania, Nigeria, and Japan.
“Intake of legumes/nuts and non-starchy vegetables increased over time, but overall improvements in dietary quality were offset by increased intake of unhealthy components such as red/processed meat, sugar-sweetened beverages, and sodium,” says lead author Victoria Miller, a visiting scientist from McMaster University in Canada who started this study as a postdoctoral scholar with Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean for Policy and Jean Mayer Professor of Nutrition at the Friedman School, and senior author on the paper.