HealthDay News — Although patients are consuming more healthy foods, that positive trend has been outpaced by a rising consumption of unhealthy foods, according to research published in The Lancet Global Health.

“Healthy dietary patterns are a global priority to reduce non-communicable diseases. Yet neither worldwide patterns of diets nor their trends with time are well established,” wrote Fumiaki Imamura, PhD, of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and colleagues.

To characterize global changes in dietary patterns nationally and regionally and to assess heterogeneity by age, sex, national income, and type of dietary pattern, the investigators conducted a systematic assessment of global consumption of key dietary items by region, nation, age, national income, sex, and type of dietary pattern.

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The intake of healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, rose between 1990 and 2010, but there was an even greater increase in the consumption of unhealthy fare such as processed meats and sugar-sweetened beverages. The greatest improvements in diet quality were in high-income nations, with increases in the amount of healthy foods people ate and slight decreases in their intake of unhealthy foods.

However, people in the United States and many of the other wealthiest regions (Canada, Western Europe, Australia, and New Zealand) still had among the lowest-quality diets in the world due to their consumption of unhealthy foods. Some countries in sub-Saharan African and in Asia showed no improvement in diet quality.

Several low-income countries, such as Chad and Mali, and Mediterranean countries, such as Turkey and Greece, had the highest scores for healthy foods. The analysis also showed that older people and women tended to have the healthiest diets.

The finding that unhealthy eating is increasing faster than healthy eating in much of the world is cause for concern, and action is needed to reverse the trend, according to the scientists.

“These global data provide the best estimates to date of nutrition transitions across the world and inform policies and priorities for reducing the health and economic burdens of poor diet quality,” concluded the researchers.


  1. Imamura F et al. The Lancet Global Health. 2015; doi: