AHA EPI/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions

AHA EPI/Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions

Issue: April 2012
March 13, 2012
2 min read

REGARDS: Dietary patterns based on demographics identified in US adults

Issue: April 2012
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Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2012

Researchers have identified five dietary patterns for US adults that are strongly influenced by age, education, income, race, region and sex.

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, wine, liquor and salads.

Results showed marked differences across demographic and socioeconomic groups. Black adults, men, those with an income of less than $35,000 per year and noncollege graduates were more likely to follow the Southern dietary pattern compared with white adults, women and those with a higher income and education level. Black adults were less likely to follow the alcohol dietary pattern compared with white adults. The traditional dietary pattern was most common among adults aged 45 to 54 years; those aged 75 years and older were least likely to follow the traditional diet. Adults with at least a college education tended not to follow the Southern dietary pattern compared with those with a lower education level.

The results were presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2012 Scientific Sessions in San Diego.

“We believe focusing research on dietary patterns better represent how people eat, compared to single foods or nutrients,” Suzanne E. Judd, PhD, assistant professor of biostatistics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said in a press release. “We hope that understanding these patterns will be informative in understanding the role of diet in health and disease disparities.”

The data are from an analysis of the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study, a cohort of more than 30,000 black and white adults aged at least 45 years, half of whom live in the southeastern United States. This analysis focused on 21,636 participants who completed a Block 98 food-frequency questionnaire at baseline. Dietary patterns based on 56 food groups were determined.

For more information:

Disclosure: Dr. Judd reports no relevant financial disclosures.


Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc
Alice H. Lichtenstein

Studies such as REGARDS that focus on dietary patterns intended to understand the relationship between food intake and chronic disease risk are important because they are able to account not only for foods consumed but also foods not consumed, and they can give a more complete picture of the entire diet than studies focusing on single foods or nutrients. We have learned a great deal about diet and chronic disease risk using the latter approach, but we have been unable to explain a considerable amount of the variability. This may be because there are multiple factors at play simultaneously. The patterns identified by the REGARDS researchers are interesting and should lead to some important new findings. These findings may lead to customized approaches to counseling people with different types of the dietary patterns to effectively change their eating habits to improve health outcomes.

Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc
Gershoff Professor of Nutrition Science and Policy
Tufts University

Disclosure: Dr. Lichtenstein reports no relevant financial disclosures.