Objectives: Assessing the quality of the total diet is a relatively new focus of studies in nutritional epidemiology. New indexes of healthful eating patterns have been largely limited to US populations. This study used evaluative criteria developed in the United States to assess diet quality and dietary diversity of French adults.
Methods: Habitual dietary intakes of a representative sample of 837 adults (361 men and 476 women) in the Val-de-Marne Dèpartement were evaluated. Evaluative measures of diet quality included a modified diet quality index (DQI), a dietary diversity (DD) score, and a dietary variety score (DVS). The 5-point DQI assessed compliance with the key guidelines of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for healthy people. The DD score counted the number of major food groups consumed whereas the DVS counted the total number of foods consumed on a regular basis.
Results: Few French adults consumed diets consistent with the USDA dietary recommendations. Only 14% of respondents derived less than 30% of energy from fat and only 4% derived less than 10% of energy from saturated fat. As a result, 63% of the sample had DQI scores of either 0 or I. In contrast, close to 90% of respondents scored a maximum of 5 in DD. Persons whose diets met US dietary recommendations also had the lowest DVSs.
Conclusions: Methodologic factors and cultural biases may account for some of the observed differences between French and US data. Nevertheless, studies of diet quality and diversity are a promising new approach to the study of the total diet and associated health outcomes and may provide new insight into the French paradox.