The diet quality of rural older adults in the South as measured by healthy eating index-2005 varies by ethnicity.J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Dec; 109(12):2063-7.JA
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans publication placed increased emphasis on the importance of consuming a wide range of healthful foods and further reducing the consumption of less healthful ones. These recommendations are challenging for rural elders whose functional limitations, fewer resources, and limited access to foods negatively affect the quality of their diets. The purpose of this study was to characterize the diet quality of a multiethnic population-based sample of older adults (N=635) in the southern United States. Data were collected via home visit; dietary intakes were assessed using a food frequency questionnaire and converted into Healthy Eating Index-2005 (HEI-2005) scores used to monitor adherence to dietary guidelines. The mean total HEI-2005 score was 61.9/100 with fewer than 2% meeting the recommended score of 80/100. After controlling for age, sex, marital status, poverty status, and education, African Americans (n=136) had higher total HEI-2005 scores compared to American Indians (n=195) and non-Hispanic whites (n=304) (64.5 vs 60.1 and 61.1 respectively, P=0.001). Certain HEI-2005 foods were consumed in greater amounts by particular groups, such as total fruit and meat and beans (African Americans), whole fruit and grains (African Americans and American Indians), milk (non-Hispanic whites), and energy from solid fat, alcohol, and added sugars (American Indians). The overall diet quality of these rural elders was not adequate as determined by the HEI-2005; however, intakes of dark green and orange vegetables were adequate, and many participants were in compliance with the added fat and sugar guidelines. Determination of factors that promote or prevent the consumption of healthful foods among rural elders may help tailor nutrition education programs for these vulnerable communities.