That diverse diet might not be so healthy after all
Nutritionists have long recommended people eat a variety of foods, but new guidance suggests that may not be the healthiest of diets.
In a new statement, the American Heart Association advises that sticking with certain healthy foods that fit one’s budget or tastes is potentially better at helping maintain a healthy weight than a greater range of foods that includes the occasional guilty pleasure.
“Eating a more diverse diet might be associated with eating a greater variety of both healthy and unhealthy foods,” Marcia C. de Oliveira Otto, lead author of the statement and a professor at the UTHealth School of Public Health in Houston, said in a news released. “Such an eating pattern may lead to increased food consumption and obesity.”
Otto’s statement,published Thursday in the AHA journal Circulation, noted there’s no consensus about what constitutes so-called “dietary diversity” and whether it’s really a healthy dietary goal. To answer those questions, her team reviewed the last 18 years of scientific literature on the subject. Their conclusions:
• There’s no evidence that greater overall dietary diversity promotes healthy weight or optimal eating.
• There’s some evidence that a wider variety of food options in a meal may delay people’s feeling of fullness, increasing the amount of food they eat.
• There’s limited evidence suggesting greater dietary diversity is associated with eating more calories, poor eating patterns and weight gain in adults.
The statement concludes that dietary recommendations should emphasize adequate consumption of plant foods, such as fruit, vegetables, beans and whole grains, low-fat dairy products, non-tropical vegetable oils, nuts, poultry and fish.
Otto, a professor of epidemiology, human genetics and environmental science, said that’s better than a diet that includes, even in moderation, less healthy items, such as donuts, chips, fries and cheeseburger.
You can read the AHA’s dietary recoomendations here.
Todd Ackerman writes about medicine for the Houston Chronicle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@ChronMed.