Study finds dietary patterns among U.S. adult demographics

SAN DIEGO—Scientists recently identified five eating patterns for U.S. adults that are strongly influenced by age, race, region, gender, income and education. The patterns could help identify how people truly eat and help to understand the role diet plays in human health.

Presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2012 Scientific Sessions, the five dietary patterns are Southern, which includes fried, processed meats and sugar-sweetened beverages; Traditional, which includes Chinese and Mexican foods, pasta dishes, pizza and other frozen or take-out meals; Healthy, which is mostly fruits, vegetables and grains; Sweets, distinguished by large amounts of sweet snacks and desserts; and Alcohol, which also includes proteins and salads.

The results were based on questionnaires completed by more than 21,000 adults ages 45 and older. The 110-food-item questionnaire was designed to estimate the usual and customary intake of a wide array of nutrients and food groups.

“We believe focusing research on dietary patterns better represents how people eat, compared to single foods or nutrients,” said Dr. Suzanne Judd, study author and assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

Researchers found clear differences in dietary patterns across demographic and socioeconomic groups.

According to research, black study participants were more likely to eat within the Southern dietary pattern than white participants, but black participants tended not to follow the Alcohol dietary pattern.

Men who make less than $35,000 a year and who are not college graduates were more likely to follow the Southern pattern than were women, participants who make more money and those with more education. College-educated adults tended to not eat within the Southern pattern.

Those 75 years and older were likely to not eat within the Traditional dietary pattern; participants who are 45 to 54 tended to follow that pattern.

“We hope that understanding these patterns will be informative in understanding the role of diet in health and disease disparities,” Judd said.

Contact David Spitz at 212-878-5940, Karen Astle at 214-706-1392 (print only) or Julie Del Barto, 214-706-1330 (broadcast only), American Heart Association.

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