Harvard researchers claim they discovered evidence that American diets have been improving since 1999, despite general understand that Americans have been eating more unhealthily and growing vulnerable to disease.
Researchers also believe the improved diet have reduced rates of heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer.
These are unexpected findings that paint a picture nearly opposite that which many perceive. It’s hardly a time to declare victory of unhealthy habits and food, but this suggests improvement over time.
There is still plenty of room for improvement.
The researchers launched their study to understand how the changing American diet was affecting health. They reviewed seven health and nutrition surveys of nearly 34,000 adults from 1999 to 2012.
They ranked diets on a scale of 0 for poor diets to 110 for a perfect diet. The overall rating increased from 40 in 1999 ro 48 in 2012.
During the time examined, Americans consumed more whole grains, nuts, fruit, legumes, and polyunsaturated fatty acids, and they ate less sugar-sweetened drinks, red meat, and trans fats. The intake of salt, though, increased.
After extrapolating their findings, researchers estimated these improvements reduced cases of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer cases, as well as prevented more than 1 million premature deaths.
These findings suggest healthy diets reduce early death risk in multiple ways. Improved diet reduce the risk for chronic disease and boost survival rates of those who already have them.
They researchers did not examine whether their estimates matched real death rates, though.
Like many nutrition and diet studies, this study also relies on participants’ memories and honesty as they fill out their survey. It is critical to continue studying these ideas to see if the trend continues.
Trans fat has been all but eliminated from the food supply at this point, so the next major step is reducing sugar intake and regulating salt.