If more Americans ate healthier diets, the nation could save tens of billions of dollars in health care costs for major problems such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, strokes, hip fractures and Alzheimer’s disease.
That’s the conclusion of a new study in which researchers assessed different scenarios and determined that boosting the number of Americans with healthy eating habits could save between $21 billion and $135 billion a year in health care costs.
The amounts varied depending on how many more people improved their eating patterns and the type of diet they followed, according to the researchers.
The researchers suggested foods such as fish, nuts, fruits and olive oil as components of a healthful diet.
The study is scheduled for presentation Sunday at the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting, in Boston.
“We found that increasing adherence to healthy dietary patterns by even 20 percent at a population level has the potential to save more than $20 billion in both direct and indirect costs associated with 10 major health outcomes,” said study lead author Carolyn Scrafford, senior managing scientist at Exponent, a scientific consulting firm.
“That’s a significant saving from what we believe is a realistic shift in diet quality,” she said in a society news release.
“Our results suggest that it’s worthwhile to educate Americans on these dietary patterns and their components, to encourage them to make little changes to improve their diet quality,” Scrafford said.
Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers healthy eating tips.