British men favour beer and fast food diet

December 12, 2000

Dietary patterns among a national random sample of British adults 2001:55;29-37

A beer and fast food diet is the one eaten by most men in Britain, shows research in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. Women prefer the "traditional British diet"-high in refined sugars and cereals, laden with fat, and washed down with plenty of tea.

The research team used data from the Dietary and Nutritional Survey of British Adults, a national representative dietary survey of adults aged between 16 and 64 living in private households in Britain. Over 2,000 men and women completed seven day food diaries, detailing what and how much they ate. Fifty one food/drink items were included in the analysis.

The results showed that over 90 per cent of men and almost 90 per cent of women fell into four distinct dietary groups. Diet was closely aligned with geography, socioeconomic status, and behaviour. Less healthy diets were predominantly found in the North of England and Scotland, and were eaten by people on low incomes and smokers. Younger people favoured fast food.

Over a third of British men ate a beer and fast food diet, low in wholegrain cereals and nuts, and nil consumption of fish, low fat dairy products, fruit juices, spirits and wines. Almost one in five of those sampled favoured the "traditional British diet." Over 17 per cent of the sample ate what the researchers termed a "mixed sweet diet." This is a diet high in wholegrain cereals, fish and fruit, as well as cakes and pastries, and above average intakes of high fat dairy products and coffee. A further 17 per cent of the sample ate a high fibre, low fat diet, washed down with plenty of coffee and above average intake of wines and spirits-dubbed a "healthier diet."

Just under a third of the women ate a "traditional British diet", low in fish, fruit, wholegrain cereals, and alcohol. Almost one in five ate a "healthier cosmopolitan diet," low in fat and processed foods, and high in fibre, but also high in alcohol intake and only moderately high in vegetable consumption. One in four women ate a "convenience food" diet, high in refined sugars, fats, and cereals, and low in fibre and alcohol. The fourth group, comprising 15 per cent of the sample ate more healthily but with a moderately high intake of cakes and pastries-"a healthier but sweet diet."


Dr Jane Pryer, Department of Primary Care and Population Sciences, University College London.

BMJ Specialty Journals

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