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Arch Hellen Med, 25(3), May-June 2008, 315-328


Healthy dietary indices in public health practice and research

1Department of Food Science, Agricultural University of Athens,
2Department of Nutrition-Dietetics, "Harokopio" University, Athens, Greece

The scientific community has long been interested in the overall quality of diets owing to the fact that a healthy, varied and balanced diet is important for the health of each individual. Much research has been conducted on methods used to measure dietary quality. These studies led to the development of a number of indices, some simple and some much more complex. Indices that evaluate diets from a variety of attributes concurrently are able to depict the overall dietary quality better than others that examine single nutrients or food groups. Using these complex indices, diet quality may be evaluated in relation to nutrient adequacy, compliance with dietary guidelines or nutrition recommendations, association with the risk of chronic diseases or mortality, and assessment of interventions. However, there are several factors that should be considered in the design of a dietary index, such as the purpose of its use and its simplicity in daily practice. The general purpose of an index is to synthesize a large amount of information into a single useful indicator. The purpose of this review was to present and to critically review the most commonly used dietary indices, and the ways in which they reflect various aspects of dietary quality. The majority of these indices fail to recognize the various inter-relationships between their components or their accuracy for estimating specific health outcomes. Thus, the development of weighted dietary indices which assess adequately a dietary pattern and its relationship to the burden of disease is considered essential.

Key words: Diet quality, Dietary index, Healthy index, Mediterranean diet.

© Archives of Hellenic Medicine