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Diet quality is associated with mental health, social support, and neighborhood factors among Veterans.

Hoerster KD, Wilson S, Nelson KM, Reiber GE, Masheb RM. Diet quality is associated with mental health, social support, and neighborhood factors among Veterans. Eating Behaviors. 2016 Dec 1; 23:168-173.

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United States Veterans have a higher prevalence of overweight and related chronic conditions compared to the general population. Although diet is a primary and modifiable contributor to these conditions, little is known about factors influencing diet quality among Veterans. The goal of this study is to examine individual, social environment, and physical environment correlates of general diet quality among Veterans. Study participants (N = 653) received care at an urban VA Medical Center in Seattle, WA and completed a mailed survey in 2012 and 2013. Diet quality was assessed with Starting the Conversation, an instrument that measures consumption of unhealthy snacks, fast food, desserts, sugar-sweetened beverages, and fats; fruits and vegetables; and healthy proteins. Variables significantly (p < 0.05) associated with diet quality in bivariate analyses were included in a multivariate regression. In the multivariate model, higher level of depressive symptom severity (Diff = 0.05; CI = 0.01, 0.09; p = 0.017); not having others eat healthy meals with the Veteran (Diff = -0.81; CI = -1.5, -0.1; p = 0.022); and reduced availability of low-fat foods in neighborhood stores where the Veteran shops (Diff = -0.37; CI = -0.6, -0.2; p < 0.001) were associated with poorer diet quality. Consistent with prior research in the general population, this study identified multiple domains associated with Veterans'' diet quality, including psychological comorbidity, the social environment, and the physical environment. Findings from this study suggest that interventions aimed at mental health, social support, and neighborhood access to healthy foods are needed to improve Veteran diet quality.

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