Adherence to the Planetary Health Diet Index and correlation with nutrients of public health concern: an analysis of NHANES 2003–2018

Elsevier, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 119, February 2024
Frank S.M., Jaacks L.M., Adair L.S., Avery C.L., Meyer K., Rose D. et al.

Background: The Planetary Health Diet Index (PHDI) is a novel measure adapted to quantify alignment with the dietary evidence presented by the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health. Objectives: To examine how population-level health and sustainability of diet as measured by the PHDI changed from 2003 to 2018, and to assess how PHDI correlated with inadequacy for nutrients of public health concern (iron, calcium, potassium, and fiber) in the United States. Methods: We estimated survey-weighted trends in PHDI scores and median intake of PHDI components in a nationally representative sample of 33,859 adults aged 20+ y from 8 cycles (2003–2018) of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey with 2 d of dietary recall data. We used the National Cancer Institute method to examine how PHDI correlated with inadequate intake of iron, calcium, potassium, and fiber. Results: Out of a theoretical range of 0–140, the median PHDI value increased by 4.2 points over the study period, from 62.7 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 62.0, 63.4) points in 2003–2004 to 66.9 (66.2, 67.7) points in 2017–2018 (P-trend < 0.001), although most of this change occurred before 2011–2012 and plateaued thereafter. For adequacy components that are encouraged for consumption, nonstarchy vegetable intake significantly decreased over time, whereas whole grains, nuts and seeds, and unsaturated oils increased. For moderation components with recommended limits for consumption, poultry and egg intake increased, but red and processed meat, added sugars, saturated fats, and starchy vegetables decreased over time. Higher PHDI values were associated with a lower probability of iron, fiber, and potassium inadequacy. Conclusions: Although there have been positive changes over the past 20 y, there is substantial room for improving the health and sustainability of the United States diet. Shifting diets toward EAT-Lancet recommendations would improve nutrient adequacy for iron, fiber, and potassium. Policy action is needed to support healthier, more sustainable diets in the United States and globally.