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Higher Quality Diets More Expensive

By Daniel H. Rasolt

Posted: Friday, May 01, 2009

(Defeat Diabetes® News) -- Higher education and socioeconomic status translates into better, albeit more expensive, diets, according to a recent study. These individuals therefore put themselves at decreased risk for a variety of dangerous conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Determining the specific quality of one's diet is a complicated and controversial process, though general principles such as balance between fruits, vegetables, carbohydrates, proteins, and various types of fats, are well accepted. Nonetheless, one diet quality measuring stick, known as nutritional "energy density," or the amount of caloric energy consumed per unit weight, is a good indicator of diet efficiency, where many foods have high caloric, but low nutritional, value. As noted by the current authors, generally "healthful" foods, such as fruits, vegetables, lean meat and low-fat dairy, have low energy density and high nutritional content, as opposed to high energy density junk foods and sweets, which have little nutritional value. Not surprisingly, past research has connected high nutritional, low energy density diets, to lower diabetes, obesity and CVD incidence, as well vice-versa with high energy density diets being linked to obesity and disease risk.
Through thorough dietary analysis over four days, as well as in depth questionnaires about lifestyles (including typical dietary behavior), income levels, education, and social status, being filled out, a study of 164 varying individuals was conducted. Those who were seen to consume high energy density diets were also seen to have lower nutritional intake, meaning lower quality diets. More specifically, intake of vitamins A and C, fiber and potassium, were all generally deficient in high energy density diets.
These low quality diets were observed to be more common in less educated individuals, typically of lower socioeconomic status. This observation could be a result of several factors. One is that further education typically enables greater opportunity for awareness about health risks and proper nutrition. In addition, as this study has shown, higher quality diets tend to be somewhat more expensive. Some specific numbers from the study include $6.72 per day for men and $6.21 for women, for food consumption, which demonstrates the tendency of men to eat more than women. These numbers rose, however, to $7.43 for men and $8.12 for women, per 2000 kcal (kilo calories, a form of energy measurement) consumed, with low energy density, high nutrition diets being clearly more expensive than their unhealthy counterparts.
The authors conclude the following: "The finding that higher-quality diets were consumed by women of higher (socioeconomic status) and more costly per 2000 kcal has implications for epidemiologic studies of diet and chronic disease. Nutritional epidemiology has historically been based on the premise that nutrient exposures are directly linked to health outcomes. However, nutritional status is also intimately linked to socioeconomic status, and the findings reported here raise the possibility that the higher monetary cost of nutritious diets may provide one explanation for these observations. Future studies, based on more representative samples, will be needed to elucidate the connections between diet quality and diet cost across socioeconomic strata." In other words, higher incidence of unhealthy diets and subsequent diabetes, obesity and CVD incidence, may be a result of higher cost, along with decreased awareness.

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Monsivais, Pablo. Drewnowski, Adam. Korte, Lynelle. Journal of the American Dietetic Association news release. May 2009.

Daniel H. Rasolt writes for Defeat Diabetes® News. Read more of his original content articles.

Copyright © 2009 Defeat Diabetes Foundation, Inc. All rights reserved.

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