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article imageClass divide: Dietary gap between rich and poor in the U.S.

By Tim Sandle     Jun 23, 2016 in Health
Income affects the choices available in terms of food: cheaper fast-food or more expensive health food. This distinction is affecting the health of the U.S. population in very different directions depending on household income.
Class is a social construct and one embedded to wealth (be that from income or assets). This leads to a layering of society, with people occupying different classes in relation to their occupation, which in turn relates to the production process. The social class position of a person permeates through a number of socio-economic matters, from access to education to overall health and life expectancy. A new study in the U.S. shows that the class divide remains resolute when it comes to health and diet.
This health gap has come from a review of dietary habits, based on samples taken between 1999 and 2013. The headline figure is that there is a clear dietary divide between low-income and high-income U.S. citizens. The data was drawn from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which included some 33, 932 adults.
The dietary divide leads to a health divide, with many on lower incomes consuming foods that have an association with greater chances of developing obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancers.
The analysis reveals dietary disparities by income and that these, over the course of the study, have either remained or they have worsened. Looking at the data in more depth, this reveals that the disparities are worse among younger adults, blacks and Hispanics. However, the overall determinant is income.
There was some good news, however. The survey revealed that across the board the diet of the average U.S. citizen is better. Consumers are purchasing more whole grains, nuts/seeds, whole fruits, and yogurt. Conversely, sales of sugary drinks, potatoes, and refined grains, have fallen.
However, there are still improvements to be made, according to Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, who has been interviewed by the science website Laboratory Roots. Dr. Mozaffarin observes: "The overall diet is still far from optimal - less than one-third of American adults meet guideline targets for most foods. Intakes of total fruits or vegetables did not increase and intakes of processed meats and sodium were largely unchanged.”
Commenting on Twitter, health group Chiropractic (@ChiropracticFan) tweeted that: "Diet & Nutrition: Dariush Mozaffarian: The 2016 Elections: Why Our Food is the Single Biggest Issue."
Dariush Mozaffarian, who works at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, expands on his observations in the following video:
Dr. Mozaffarian’s message is that government policies and resources need to be orientated towards the poorest sections of society.
The results of the survey are published in JAMA, in a paper titled “Changing Dietary Habits and Improving the Healthiness of Diets in the United States.”
More about diet and health, Social class, Class, Income, Health
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