The Complex Relationship Between Diet And Health

Health Aff (Millwood). 2015 Nov;34(11):1813-20. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2015.0606.


The relationship between food and health is complex. Everyone needs food to live, but too little food, too much food, or the wrong type of food has negative consequences for health. To increase understanding of this relationship, we describe trends and patterns in food-related diseases among both adults and children. Using an ecological framework, we then describe why food intake is complex with a discussion of three broad levels--macro (including policy and social-cultural norms), local community, and individual environments--and their relationship to food consumption. Given the strong relationship between an individual's food choice and his or her surrounding environment, we end with examples of policy responses that aim to help people overcome environmental disincentives toward healthy eating. Finding ways to make eating healthfully easier and affordable for all populations is essential to shifting the average American diet toward one that promotes health.

Keywords: Determinants Of Health; Health Promotion/Disease Prevention.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Policy Making
  • Public Health / trends*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult