Majority of Americans believe their diet is far healthier than it actually is – The Hill

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by Gianna Melillo | June 17, 2022
Nearly 42 percent of Americans are obsese and rising incidence has led to increased rates of preventable diseases like type 2 diabetes, stroke, and heart disease across the country. 
Driven by a combination of genetics, social determinants of health, and behaviors the growing number of individuals with obesity can also be attributed in part to regular consumption of highly processed foods and less intake of nutritious, and oftentimes more expensive, alternatives.
Despite these proven trends, a majority of people in the United State think their personal diet is healthier than it really is, while individuals frequently overestimate the quality of their diet, according to preliminary research on over 9,700 participants.
Study findings were presented this week at The American Society of Nutrition’s annual meeting. 
Of the more than 9,700 individuals included, around 8,000 inaccurately classified the quality of their diet, 99 percent of whom overestimated the healthfulness of food consumed. 
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“We found that only a small percentage of U.S. adults can accurately assess the healthfulness of their diet, and interestingly, it’s mostly those who perceive their diet as poor who are able to accurately assess their diet,” said lead author Jessica Thomson in a press release
Past research has also revealed self-rated health can strongly predict morbidity and mortality, but researchers sought to determine whether self-rated diet quality could predict individuals’ actual diet quality. 
Based on individual responses to a 24-hour diet recall questionnaire, participants rated their diet as excellent, very good, good, fair or poor; responses were then used to determine scores. 
The highest accuracy was recorded by those who rated their diet as poor, a finding that surprised researchers. Among these participants, researchers’ scores aligned with those reported 97 percent of the time.
It’s unclear whether Americans lack accurate understanding of healthy diet components or simply assess their diets as they wish them to be, Thomson said. 
“Until we have a better understanding of what individuals consider when assessing the healthfulness of their diet, it will be difficult to determine what knowledge and skills are necessary to improve self-assessment or perception of one’s diet quality,” she added. 
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