Healthy diet gap grows between rich and poor

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine concludes that in terms of healthy food, the gap between what higher and lower-income American families eat keeps growing.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health looked at 30,000 adults in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 1999 and 2010. They calculated each person’s Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI) to rate their diet based on connections between certain foods and disease risk, accounting for various factors such as age and gender.

For example, fish and vegetables get higher AHEI scores because they are known to lower cardiovascular and cancer risk. Whereas junk food and animal fats received lower AHEI scores because they are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and other illnesses. The higher the score, the healthier a person’s diet. A perfect AHEI score is 110.

Overall, the average American’s AHEI score increased from 39.9 in 1999 to 46.8 in 2010. The study showed people are eating less trans fats and drinking less soda and juice. However, sodium consumption continues to rise. They also noted the consumption of omega-3s, whole grains, and vegetables is still lower than it should be.

When analyzing the results by socioeconomic status, the researchers found that people with more money and college degrees ate healthier and improved their diet the most. The scores between rich and poor increased from 3.9 points to 7.8 points. The researchers said that increase could be tied to the disparity in access to healthy food and one suggested that changes to the food stamps program and what items people are allowed to be purchased with food stamps could also be a factor.

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Sourced from: reuters.com, U.S. diet quality improves, but gap widens between rich and poor