A systematic review of diet quality indices in relation to obesity

Br J Nutr. 2017 Apr;117(8):1055-1065. doi: 10.1017/S0007114517000915. Epub 2017 May 8.


Tools, called 'diet/dietary quality indices', evaluate the level of adherence to a specified pattern or a set of recommendations in populations. Yet, there are no review studies providing unanimous comprehensive results of dietary indices on obesity. We reviewed observational studies, focusing on the association of diet quality indices with general obesity or abdominal obesity in adults. We systematically conducted a search in all English language publications available on MEDLINE, ISI Web of Science and Embase between January 1990 and January 2016. Among the wide variety of indices and weight-derived variables, studies with dietary-guideline-based indices and mean changes for weight gain or OR for general obesity and abdominal obesity were selected. From a total of 479 articles, thirty-four studies were selected for the current review, ten of which had prospective designs and twenty-six had cross-sectional designs. Associations of weight status with the original Healthy Eating Index (HEI) and other versions of the HEI including alternative HEI, HEI-2005 and HEI-05 were examined in thirteen studies, with ten studies revealing significant associations. The HEI was a better general obesity predictor in men than in women. Diet scores lacked efficacy in assessing overall diet quality and demonstrated no significant findings in developing countries, in comparison with US populations. In addition, indices based on dietary diversity scores were directly associated with weight gain. Despite the insufficient evidence to draw definitive conclusions about the relation between dietary indices and obesity, HEI was found to be inversely associated with obesity and diversity-based indices were positively associated with obesity.

Keywords: DDS Dietary Diversity Score; DGAI Dietary Guidelines for Americans Index; DGI Dietary Guideline Index; DQI Diet Quality Index; FNRS Framingham Nutritional Risk Score; HEI Healthy Eating Index; WC waist circumference; Diet quality indices; Dietary indices; Obesity.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet / standards*
  • Diet Surveys
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Humans
  • Obesity / etiology*