Although many Americans are known to have unhealthy diet, a factor that helps drive the obesity epidemic in the country, findings of a new study reveal that the U.S. does not have the worst diet in the world.
In the new research published in The Lancet Global Health journal on Feb. 18, Fumiaki Imamura, from the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, and colleagues analyzed how people from different parts of the globe ate by looking at the national data of nearly 90 percent of the global population.
They found that the consumption of healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables increased between 1990 and 2010 but the rise in the intake of unhealthy foods such as sweetened beverages and processed meats is greater.
The researchers likewise found that those who live in the world's wealthiest countries such as the U.S, Canada, New Zealand and Australia have some of the poorest quality diets due to having the highest consumption of unhealthy foods. Several low income countries such as Chad and Mali, on the other hand, have the healthiest diet.
Chad in Central Africa topped the list of countries that have the healthiest diets overall followed by Sierra Leone, Mali, Gambia, Uganda, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Israel and Somalia. Armenia, on the other hand, has the least healthy diet of surveyed countries followed by Hungary, Belgium, Czech Republic, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Argentina, Turkmenistan, Mongolia and Slovakia.
"Compared with low-income nations, high-income nations had better diets based on healthy items but substantially poorer diets based on unhealthy items," the researchers wrote. "Middle-income countries showed the largest improvement in dietary patterns based on healthy items, but the largest deterioration in dietary patterns based on unhealthy items."
The researchers likewise noted that some countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia such as India and China did not have diet quality improvements over the course of the study period. Their analyses also showed that women and older people were more likely to have the healthiest diets.
"The work by Fumiaki Imamura and colleagues in this issue of The Lancet Global Health is a unique attempt to evaluate measures of dietary quality and their trends in most countries worldwide," wrote Carlo La Vecchia, from the Università degli Studi di Milano in Italy and Lluis Serra Majem, from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Spain in a commentary. "The highest scores for healthy foods are in several low-income countries, as well as a few Mediterranean ones, reflecting favorable aspects of the Mediterranean diet."