American dietary trends have improved overall, over a period of 13 years. However, US-based researchers recently analyzed the dietary intake among US adults between 1999-2012 using The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and found that Americans are eating whole grains, nuts and seeds more than ever whilst cutting back on sodas and sugary drinks. However a significant discrepancy in the diet quality and various dietary components due to socio-economic differences amongst different groups has also been observed.

Dr Dariush Mozaffarian, senior author of the study and Dean of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, Boston, stated, “The overall diet is still far from optimal – less than one-third of American adults meet guidelines for most foods.”

The findings of the analysis conducted on approximately 34,000 men of age 20 or older suggest overall dietary improvements. It was brought to attention that the primary dietary scores of individuals improved by 11.6 % while secondary dietary scores showed an improvement of 9.7%. Another important finding of the analysis revealed that although Americans did not eat enough fruits and vegetables, the estimated percentage of poor diets showed a decrease from 55.9% to 45.6%.

Americans consumed increased amounts of healthy foods such as whole grains and nuts. The dietary intake of seafood including fish and shellfish were also noted as high. Moreover, decreased consumption of sugary and sweetened beverages was monitored between 1999-2000 and 2011-2012.

The dietary scores were evaluated in correspondence to the dietary guidelines provided by the American Heart Association (AHA) which endorses the inclusion of healthy servings of fruits and vegetables, in addition to increased quantities of fiber-rich whole grains and 2-3 servings of fish per week. Additional recommendations such as limiting sodium content, along with reducing the amount of sodas and sugary juices were the highlight of the AHA guidelines.

Another important finding of the analysis shed light on the disparities in the diet quality of Americans with reference to race, ethnicity, education and income level.

It was also noticed that differences in eating habits persisted throughout the study period with white people inclining towards more healthy diets compared to black and Hispanic adults. The poor diet quality of white individuals significantly declined from 53% to 42%. Moreover, the improvements in diet quality were not recorded in non-Hispanic black or Mexican American adults. Although a discrepancy amongst different socioeconomic groups was recorded there was no justification due to the lack of significant evidence. However it was hypothesized that poor diet quality can be attributed to a low income level.

The salient point regarding improvements in dietary patterns leaves room for major speculation, stating that although American diet quality and eating habits have improved over a decade, the disease burden has not decreased during this time period.

Data sets from the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) showed a marked increase in the rates of diabetes which made it to the list of the most common diseases in the United States. Furthermore, diabetic trends in Americans with diabetes diagnosed from 1980 through 2014, increased fourfold, specifying 22 million individuals to be diabetic.

A 2015 study published in JAMA also confirmed an increment in diabetes rates in the overall population between 1988-1994 and 2011-2012, as well as a higher prevalence in other sub groups including non-Hispanic black, non-Hispanic Asian, and Hispanic individuals.

According to a recent analysis published by Diabetes in Control, the prevalence of diabetes in US adults from 1988-2012 validated the overall increase in incidences of diagnosed diabetes. The analysis also found that such spikes in diabetes rates can be justified due to the increasing trends of obesity in the US during the past two decades.

ISRN Obesity also tracked down the rates of obesity in the US by analyzing the trends during 1990–2000 to 2009-2010. The study observed that the occurrence of obesity showed a significant increase of 17.8%. Moreover, the rates of grade-3 obesity in individuals having BMI ≥ 40 increased by 33.0%.

An alarming fact regarding increased preponderance of obesity suggests that every day, about one quarter of the US population eats fast food and a teenager in the United States, on average, consumes 10% of his daily calories from soda, according to estimates from CBS News.

Mozaffarian, the senior author of the study, told Reuters that the focus should be on reducing the amount of highly processed foods that are rich in refined grains, starch, salt and artificial sugars. Similarly, addition of healthy unprocessed foods such as fruits, non-starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, fish and yogurt can help fight the disease burden which is subject  to unhealthy diets.