WASHINGTON — Diets such as paleo and Whole30 are gaining traction among Americans. The International Food Information Council Foundation’s 13th annual Food and Health Survey found 36 percent of Americans said they followed a specific eating pattern or diet within the past year.

The top pattern cited was intermittent fasting at 10 percent. Diets restricting carbohydrate intake were represented as well with 7 percent following a paleo diet, 5 percent following a low-carbohydrate diet, 5 percent following the Whole30 diet, 4 percent following a high-protein diet and 3 percent following a ketogenic/high-fat diet.

The paleo diet focuses on items that cavemen ate, including meat, fish, nuts, leafy greens, vegetables and seeds. The Whole30 diet is similar in that it promotes the consumption of meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, fruits and nuts. People on the Whole30 diet go 30 days without consuming sugar or natural or artificial sweeteners; alcohol; grains; beans or legumes; soy; dairy; and processed additives.

People age 18 to 34 are more likely to follow a specific diet or eating pattern, according to the IFIC online survey of 1,009 Americans ages 18-80 conducted March 12-26. More on the survey, which was released May 16, may be found here.

Top Diets
Many Americans are shunning sugar and carbohydrates, according to the survey, while others are seeking organic and natural options. Sugar was the most cited source of weight gain at 33 percent and was followed by carbohydrates at 25 percent, up from 20 percent in the 2017 survey. Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they were trying to limit or avoid sugars in their diets.

People do perceive certain elements of grain-based foods as healthy. More than 80 percent of respondents listed both fiber and whole grains as healthy, trailing only vitamin D. More than 70 percent said protein from plant sources, which compared to just under 40 percent for animal protein.

People who said they bought products labeled as organic rose to 29 percent, up from 25 percent in 2017. Those who said they bought foods and beverages labeled as natural rose to 37 percent from 31 percent.

When asked to choose between a version of a product that includes artificial ingredients and a newer version of the same product that does not include artificial ingredients, 69 percent chose the product with no artificial ingredients. When asked how much more they would be willing to pay for a product with no artificial ingredients compared to one with artificial ingredients that costs $1, 62 percent said up to 10 percent more, 42 percent said up to 50 percent more, and 22 percent said they would pay double the price.

When asked to identify the healthier of two products with the same Nutrition Facts Label, 40 percent perceived one labeled as “Non-GMO” as healthier versus 15 percent for one with genetically engineered ingredients. Thirty-three percent said they believed a product with a shorter ingredient list was healthier than one with more ingredients. Fifteen percent said the product with more ingredients was healthier.

The survey also found 20 percent ranked cardiovascular health as their top desired benefit. Other answers were weight loss and weight management at 18 percent and energy at 13 percent. Only 38 percent were able to name a food they would seek to help with their top health concern. Most frequently identified were protein at 10 percent, vegetables at 7 percent, vitamins and minerals at 5 percent, and fruit at 4 percent.

“This dietary disconnect – the inability to connect specific foods and nutrients to desired health outcomes – illustrates the need for stronger, cleaner, nutrition education based on the best available evidence,” said Joseph Clayton, CEO of the IFIC Foundation.