Demographics Drive 5 Dietary Patterns in U.S. Adults

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012
This post was written by Jessica Fornarotto

You truly are what you eat, confirms new research presented at an American Heart Association (AHA) scientific meeting. Researchers identified five eating patterns for U.S. adults that are strongly influenced by age, race, region, gender, income and education.

According to an AHA press release, researchers provided 21,636 black and white adults ages 45 and older with a 110-food-item questionnaire designed to estimate the usual and customary intake of a wide array of nutrients and food groups. Based on the results of the food frequency questionnaires, the five dietary patterns are:

  • Southern — fried, processed meats, and sugar sweetened beverages.

  • Traditional — Chinese and Mexican food, pasta dishes, pizza, soup and other mixed dishes including frozen or take-out meals.
  • Healthy — mostly fruits, vegetables and grains.
  • Sweets — large amounts of sweet snacks and desserts.
  • Alcohol — proteins, alcohol and salads.

The researchers also found clear differences in dietary patterns across demographic and socioeconomic groups:

  • Blacks were more likely than whites to eat a Southern dietary pattern.
  • Men, people making less than $35,000 a year and those who weren’t college graduates were more likely to follow the Southern pattern of eating than women, those who made more money, or those who were more educated.
  • Blacks tended to not eat the alcohol dietary pattern.
  • People ages 45 to 54 tended to eat a traditional dietary pattern.
  • Those 75 years and older were likely to not eat the traditional dietary pattern.
  • College educated adults tended to not eat the Southern dietary pattern.

“We believe focusing research on dietary patterns better represents how people eat, compared to single foods or nutrients. We hope that understanding these patterns will be informative in understanding the role of diet in health and disease disparities,” said Suzanne Judd, Ph.D., study author and assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

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