Many US adults misjudge the quality of their diets, study finds

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In a small study​ of adults seeking to lose weight, researchers found that when asked to evaluate the quality of their diet over a 12-month period, most participants overestimated the healthiness of their diet.

“We found that while people generally know that fruits and vegetables are healthy, there may be a disconnect between what researchers and health care professionals consider to be a healthy and balanced diet compared to what the public thinks is a healthy and balanced diet,”​ said study author Jessica Cheng, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow in epidemiology at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health and in general internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Similar findings from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service​ came out earlier this year that found most (99% of those surveyed) overestimated the quality of their diets. 

The findings — presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2022 —  are considered preliminary until published as a full manuscript in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. The study was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

Dietary disconnect

Researchers evaluated the diets of 116 adults aged 35-58 years old who were trying to lose weight. Study participants met one-on-one with a dietitian to discuss their nutrition and then tracked everything they ate and drank every day for one year on the Fitbit app. They also weighed themselves daily and wore a Fitbit device to track their physical activity.

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