Disability adjusted life years (DALYs) is a health burden metric that combines years of life lost due to disease disability and premature mortality. The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) has been using DALYs to determine the health burden associated with numerous health risks, including risks associated with dietary intakes, at the global and national level. To translate such information at the food level in the U.S., variables in What We Eat in America (WWEIA) need to be aligned with those in the GBD. In this paper, we develop the necessary new variables needed to account for differences in definitions and units between WWEIA and the GBD. We use the Food Patterns Equivalents Database, Food Patterns Equivalents Ingredient Database, Food and Nutrient Database for Dietary Studies, and Standard Reference databases that provide data for WWEIA to develop food group and nutrient variables that align with definitions and units used in the GBD. Considerable effort was needed to disaggregate mixed dishes to GBD components. We also developed a new “non-starchy” vegetable variable, since the GBD vegetables do not include potatoes and corn, and we report fruits and vegetables in grams instead of household measures. New fiber variables were created to avoid double counting of fiber from legumes, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Regression analyses were used to predict trans-fat content for foods in WWEIA with missing or incomplete information. The majority of foods in various U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) categories contain multiple GBD food groups (e.g., vegetables, whole grains, and processed meat). For most nutrients considered in the GBD, composition is more evenly distributed across the main food categories; however, seafood omega-3 fats were predominantly from either protein foods or mixed dishes and sugar sweetened beverages were from a single category. Dietary intakes in the U.S. fall short of recommendations for all food groups/nutrients with established theoretical minimum-risk targets in GBD. To our knowledge, this is the first approach that aligns WWEIA intake variables with those used in the health burden-based GBD reports. These methods will facilitate researchers to begin comparing data from the U.S. with that from other countries, as well as assess food sustainability performances by concomitantly evaluating DALYs for environmental and nutritional impacts.
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