Source / Disclosures
Thomson G et al. Can adults in the United States accurately assess the quality of their diet? Presented at: American Society for Scientific Nutrition Sessions and Annual Meeting; June 14-16, 2022 (virtual meeting).
Disclosures: Thompson is an employee of the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, which funded the research.
The only adults in the United States who accurately assessed the health of their diet were those who considered it “poor,” according to a presentation at the American Society for Scientific Nutrition Sessions and Annual Meeting.
“Adults in the United States generally cannot accurately assess the quality of their diet,” Jessica Thompson, Ph.D.During the presentation, a research epidemiologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service said.
Thompson and colleagues used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey – a program of studies that uniquely combines interviews and physical examinations – to analyze the nutritional status and general health of people in the United States.
The researchers asked participants 20 years of age or older to rate the health of their diet from excellent to poor and the quality of the diet measured by applying the 2015 Healthy Eating Index (HEI) to 24-hour diet recalls.
HEI – a diet quality tool that measures how a diet aligns with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans – calculates a score from 0 to 100 by analyzing 13 ingredients, including nine adequate (fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, protein, etc.) and four moderate ingredients (Refined grains, sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars), Thompson said.
“The maximum score depends on meeting or staying under the highest recommended amount for each food group,” she explained. “Ingredients are scored based on density of 1,000 calories, excluding fatty acids, which is a ratio of unsaturated fatty acids to saturated fatty acids.”
HEI scores followed the American grading system from A to F: “Excellent” corresponds to grades from 90 to 100 (A); “Very Good” corresponds to a score of 80 to 100 (A or B); “Good” corresponds to scores from 70 to 89 (B or C); Matched “fair” scores from 60 to 79 (C or D); And “Poor” refers to a score from 0 to 69 (D or F).
Of the 9,757 participants, 8% rated their diet as “excellent,” 22% as “very good,” 41% as “good,” 24% as “acceptable,” and 6% as “good.” It is “weak”.
However, in the quality of the measured diet, less than 1% – only 21 participants – fell into the “excellent” category and scored an A. Almost 70% – 6,742 participants – scored a F. 19% scored a C and 19% scored a D.
“Of the 9,757 adults included in our study, only 15% were able to accurately assess the quality of their diet,” Thompson said. Note, however, that in the poorer group, 97% accurately rate the quality of their diet.
Between 1% and 3% of participants in the “good”, “fair” and “poor” groups underestimated their diets. However, the majority of participants overestimated the quality of their diet. It found that between 51% and 82% of participants who rated their diets from ‘fair’ to ‘excellent’ instead had poor diet quality.
“Although the sum of the diet quality score and most components of the diet increased as adults perceived the health of their diet, the overall diet quality score was less than 60%—a failure—for 70% of the adults in our study,” Thompson said. “The tendency of adults in the United States to exaggerate the quality of their diet points to the need for action to educate adults about what constitutes a healthy dietary intake.”