Public health intervention needed to address 'poor' quality Australian diets

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition Australia

Younger age groups consume greater amounts of sodium and added sugar, said the study.
Younger age groups consume greater amounts of sodium and added sugar, said the study.
The overall diet quality of the Australian population is poor and targeted interventions for young-adults, males, the obese and those with lower socio-economic status are sorely needed.

That’s the view of academics who sought to determine the socio-demographics of Australian adults with poor diet quality.

They studied more than 12,000 participants of the 2011–2012 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey aged 18 years or above, and examined their diets in relation to the 11-component Healthy Eating Index for Australians (HEIFA-2013).

They found the mean total HEIFA-2013 score for the Australian population was low, standing at 45.5 out of 100

Low individual scores were recorded for most HEIFA-2013 components including vegetables, fruit and dairy products (five out of 10 or lower), with grain scoring the worst (lower than three out of 10).

​Overall better scores were achieved for older adults compared to young adults and women compared with men due to a greater number of serves and a variety of vegetables and fruit and higher scores for water and sodium, ​wrote the researchers from the University of Sydney.

“In addition, women achieved higher scores than men for dairy, lean meat and alcohol but lower scores for added sugar and discretionary foods when adjusted for energy. Older adults also achieved lower scores for alcohol.“

People within the healthy weight range had higher mean scores than those in the obese weight-range due to higher scores for grains, fruit, discretionary food, fat and alcohol, whereas the lean meat score was significantly lower.

Greatest disparity

Higher HEIFA-2013 scores were associated with older age, being female, of higher socio-economic status, born outside Australia, healthy BMI status, not smoking and self-reporting diabetes.

“The greatest disparity in diet quality of the analysed socio-demographic variables was for age, with young adults 18–24 years old consuming a diet of the lowest quality,”​ they wrote.

“This was due to younger age groups consuming greater amounts of sodium and added sugar while consuming less vegetables, fruit and water compared with their older counterparts.”

The concluded that targeted interventions should focus on those people with the lowest quality diets.

Given the substantial health benefits and reduced risk of non-communicable disease attributed to a higher quality diet, public health interventions are indicated to improve the quality of the diet of the Australian population with particular attention paid to address the needs of subpopulations with lower diet quality.”

Source: Healthcare


"Socio-Demographic Determinants of Diet Quality in Australian Adults Using the Validated Healthy Eating Index for Australian Adults (HEIFA-2013)"

Author: Amanda Grech, et al

Follow us


View more


Nutra Champions Podcast

Nutra Champions Podcast