Why we eat what we eat?

People purchase foods based on their income level, their belief in a food’s health benefit and cost. However, ethnicity and gender also impact people’s food choices, according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The study reports that food choice is also influenced by environmental factors, such as reliance on fast food, food advertising and food pricing, and on individual factors, such as taste, palatability, convenience and health benefits.

The key findings are as follows:

• There are considerable ethnic and gender differences in the association between socio-economic status, perceived barrier of food price, perceived benefit of diet quality and dietary intake.

• Income constraints on individuals and families can lead to a poorer quality diet. When buying food, African-Americans with lower incomes saw food price as more important than Whites with the same income level did.

• Caucasians of lower socio-economic status ate more fat and saturated fat. African-Americans showed no association between income level and fat intake.

• Among all study participants, and independent of income, the perceived barrier of food price appears to increase sodium intake while reducing fiber intake.

• Perceived benefit of diet quality was directly related to better nutritional behavior, including consuming foods less in saturated fat and eating more fiber, fruits and vegetables. Compared to men, women were more concerned about meeting food guidelines in order to improve their health.

• Women had lower energy, energy density, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium intake than men. Yet, men had higher intake of fruits and vegetables, fiber, calcium and dairy products, particularly because they consumed more food.

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