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Healthy eating index patterns in adults by sex and age predict cardiometabolic risk factors in a cross-sectional study



Associations between diet and cardiometabolic disease (CMD) risk may vary in men and women owing to sex differences in eating habits and physiology. The current secondary analysis sought to determine the ability of sex differences in dietary patterns to discriminate groups with or without CMD risk factors (CMDrf) in the adult population and if this was influenced by age.


Diet patterns and quality were evaluated using 24 h recall-based Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2015) in free-living apparently healthy men (n = 184) and women (n = 209) 18-65 y of age with BMIs of 18-44 kg/m2. Participants were stratified into low- and high-CMDrf groups based on the presence/absence of at least one CMDrf: BMI > 25 kg/m2; fasting triglycerides > 150 mg/dL; HDL cholesterol < 50 mg/dL-women or < 40 mg/dL-men; HOMA > 2; HbA1c > 5.7. Sex by age dietary patterns were stratified by multivariate analyses, with metabolic variable associations established by stepwise discriminant analysis.


Diet quality increased with age in both sexes (P < 0.01), while women showed higher fruit, vegetable and saturated fat intake as a percentage of total energy (P < 0.05). The total-HEI score (i.e. diet quality) was lower in the high-CMDrf group (P = 0.01), however, diet quality parameters predicted CMDrf presence more accurately when separated by sex. Lower 'total vegetable' intake in the high-CMDrf group in both sexes, while high-CMDrf men also had lower 'total vegetables', 'greens and beans' intake, and high-CMDrf women had lower 'total fruits', 'whole-fruits', 'total vegetables', 'seafood and plant-proteins', 'fatty acids', and 'saturated fats' intakes (P < 0.05). Moreover, 'dairy' intake was higher in high-CMDrf women but not in men (sex by 'dairy' interaction P = 0.01). Sex by age diet pattern models predicted CMDrf with a 93 and 89% sensitivity and 84 and 92% specificity in women and men, respectively.


Sex and age differences in dietary patterns classified participants with and without accepted CMDrfs, supporting an association between specific diet components and CMD risk that differs by sex. Including sex specific dietary patterns into health assessments may provide targeted nutritional guidance to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease.

Trial registration : NCT02367287 . : NCT02298725 .

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