Objective: The objective of this study was to determine whether free-living individuals diagnosed with diabetes, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular disease or hypertension follow standard dietary recommendations for treatment of these diet-modifiable disorders.
Methods: Data are from 1,782 adult men and women who completed an annual clinic visit as part of a large study of diet and health. Usual dietary intake over the previous month was assessed with a self-administered food frequency questionnaire. Trained staff obtained a detailed medical history and information on health and exercise habits, measured height and weight, and collected a fasting blood specimen to measure total serum cholesterol, triglycerides and carotenoids. Multivariate linear regression was used to test associations of diet-modifiable chronic diseases with diet and exercise habits.
Results: 42% of the study sample reported at least one diet-modifiable disease or risk factor for disease. These individuals had higher total serum cholesterol (p < 0.001) and triglycerides (p < 0.001) compared to those without these conditions. Diabetics consumed a greater percent of energy from fat (p < 0.01), and men with hypertension consumed a greater percent energy from saturated fat (p < 0.05) compared to those without these conditions. There were few other differences in dietary intake between diseased and healthy individuals, and on average, all participants had diets that were not consistent with recommended guidelines for prevention or treatment of these diet-modifiable disorders. Forty-six percent of all participants were overweight or obese, and BMI was significantly higher among participants with at least one diet-modifiable disorder (p < 0.001). Healthy and diseased participants exercised about 17 minutes per day, and compared to non-diabetics, persons with diabetes exercised with 25% less intensity (p < 0.05).
Conclusion: Participants in this sample with diet-modifiable disorders reported that they are motivated to eat less fat, but most are still overweight or obese, consume a diet high in fat and low in fruits and vegetables and engage in very little physical exercise. New strategies are needed to help patients adopt and maintain healthful dietary practices that will reduce their risk.