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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Don’t Let the News Overwhelm your Dietary Goals

By Michael McBurney

Sometimes the news seems overwhelming. Rioting. Terrorism. Red lines and threats of military action. Forest fires. Flooding. So many terrible events happening around the world. Maybe indulging in a comfort food will be helpful. Maybe not.

According to a study based on 3-day diet records, verified by a registered dietitian, only 8 of 196 young people (4.1%) have an ideal Healthy Diet Score (Forget and colleagues). As a reminder, the American Heart Association Healthy Diet recommendations, for an adult consuming 2,000 calories, are:

  • At least 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day
  • At least two 3.5 oz servings of fish per week
  • At least three 1 oz equivalent servings of fiber-rich whole grains per day
  • Less than 1,500 mg sodium per day
  • No more than 450 calories (36 oz) of sugar-sweetened beverages a week
  • At least 4 servings of nuts, legumes and seeds a week
  • No more than 2 servings of processed meats per week
  • Less than 7% of total calories as saturated fat

Disturbingly, only 1 individual (0.5%) had ideal cardiovascular health based on anthropometric measures, blood pressure and blood chemistry.

Prospective studies link unhealthy dietary patterns with higher rates of cognitive decline with ageing (Kesse-Guyot et al., 2012). A cross-sectional study by Rizzo and colleagues shows that the choice of being a vegetarian or nonvegetarian can affect nutrient intake. Nonvegetarians are more likely to have lower intakes of dietary fiber, beta-carotene, and magnesium and higher intakes of fats (saturated, trans, arachidonic (ARA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)).  The act of selecting more nutrient-dense foods and using dietary supplements can improve nutrient intakes.

Socio-economic status (SES) is also important. Parrott and associates report that cognitive performance differs with socioeconomic circumstances when both groups (high vs low SES) have the same diet quality. These findings may partially reflect education, access to health care, and many related benefits of having higher socioeconomic circumstances. However, Parrott and colleagues remind us that it also suggests that the benefits of better nutrition will be greatest  in those at the base of the socioeconomic ladder (pyramid).

Nutrients liked DHA, iron,  B vitamins, and vitamin E, are essential for the brain and its cognitive performance. Eating healthier, more nutrient-dense fods is just a good habit.

Main Citations

Forget G, Doyon M, Lacerte G, Labonte M, Brown C, Carpentier AC, Langlois M-F, Hivert M-F. Adoption of American Heart Association 2020 Ideal Healthy Diet recommendations prevents weight gain in young adults. 2013 J Acad Nutr Diet doi:10.1016/j.jand.2013.06.346

Rizzo NS, Jaceldo-Siegel K, Sabate J, Fraser GE. Nutrient profiles of vegetarian and nonvegetarian dietary patterns. 2013 J Acad Nutr Diet doi:10.1016/j.jand.2013.06.349

Kesse-Guyot E, Andreeva VA, Jeandel C, Ferry M, Hercberg S, Galan P. A healthy dietary pattern at midlife is associated with subsequent cognitive performance. 2012 J Nutr doi:10.3945/jn.111.156257

Parrott MD, Shatenstein B, Ferland G, Payette H, Morais JA, Belleville S, Kergoat M-J, Gaudreau P, Greenwood CE. Relationship between diet quality and cognition depends on socioeconomic position in  healthy older adults. 2013 J Nutr doi:10.3945/jn.113.181115