It’s Not About Nutrients, It’s About Diet Patterns

Nutrition science began with the study of individual nutrients, with an emphasis on preventing deficiencies, such as vitamin C deficiency, which results in scurvy. But we don’t consume nutrients in isolation; we consume a variety of them in the diverse foods we consume within our overall diet. Hence, nutrition researchers are beginning to focus on overall dietary patterns rather than individual foods and nutrients.

An interesting study, which evaluated overall diet and its link to chronic disease and death, was published in the May 2014 issue of The Journal of Nutrition. The researchers analyzed the relationship between four leading dietary patterns recommended by nutrition organizations and health outcomes: Federal dietary guidance (USDA), Harvard’s Healthy Eating Plate, the Mediterranean diet, and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Eating Plan. They found that all four dietary patterns were linked with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality outcomes for men and women. This analysis revealed that while diet patterns might vary when it comes to individual foods and nutrients, their core tenets—promoting whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and plant-based proteins—remain similar and offer protection.

—Sharon Palmer, RD, Editor, EN

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