The Healthy Eating Index - 2005:
Research Uses for the Healthy Eating Index - 2005
The HEI-2005 can be used for a variety of purposes, including: population monitoring,
epidemiologic research, nutrition education, evaluation of nutrition interventions, and
- Population monitoring
- In 2007, USDA estimated HEI-2005 scores for the total US population from national
surveys conducted in 1994 - 96 and 2001 - 02. This analysis provides baseline estimates
that reflect the quality of the American diet before the implementation of the 2005
Dietary Guidelines. Results of
this analysis (PDF) can be found in the December 2007 issue of Nutrition Insight.
- Dietary intake data, collected through a 24-hour recall, are often available for only
one day on each individual. However, it is difficult to estimate the quality of a
population's usual diet when only one day of dietary information is available for a sample
of individuals from the population. Thus, researchers considered three methods to
accomplish this goal using the HEI-2005: the mean of individual scores, the score of the
mean of individual ratios, and the score of the ratio of total food group or nutrient
intake to total energy intake, which we call the population ratio. Results of this
analysis show that the score of the population ratio is the preferred method.
- Epidemiologic research
- Indices like the HEI-2005 can be used by researchers to shed light on diet-disease
relationships. For example, a recent analysis compared how four such indices -- the
HEI-2005, Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), Mediterranean Diet Score (MDS), and
Recommended Food Score (RFS) -- are associated with colorectal cancer in the NIH-AARP Diet
and Health Study (n=492,382). For men, a similarly decreased risk of colorectal cancer
was observed across all indices when comparing the highest scores with the lowest. For
women, a significantly decreased risk was found only with the HEI-2005, although AHEI
results were similar. Index-based dietary patterns that are consistent with given dietary
guidelines are associated with reduced risk.
- Other types of research
- The HEI-2005 also lends itself to other types of nutrition research as well. For
example, it can be useful in nutrition education research to assess a school-based
nutrition education program, in nutrition interventions to evaluate program goals, or in
economic research to compare costs and diet quality in a community-based program.