Socio-economic status and ethnicity are independently associated with dietary patterns: the HELIUS-Dietary Patterns study

  • Louise H. Dekker University of Amsterdam
  • Mary Nicolaou
  • Rob M. van Dam
  • Jeanne H. M. de Vries
  • Evelien J. de Boer
  • Henny A. M. Brants
  • Marja H. Beukers
  • Marieke B. Snijder
  • Karien Stronks
Keywords: Dietary intake, dietary patterns, ethnicity, socio-economic status


Background: Differences in dietary patterns between ethnic groups have often been observed. These differences may partially be a reflection of differences in socio-economic status (SES) or may be the result of differences in the direction and strength of the association between SES and diet.

Objective: We aimed to examine ethnic differences in dietary patterns and the role of socio-economic indicators on dietary patterns within a multi-ethnic population.

Design: Cross-sectional multi-ethnic population-based study.

Setting: Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Subjects: Principal component analysis was used to identify dietary patterns among Dutch (n=1,254), South Asian Surinamese (n=425), and African Surinamese (n=784) participants. Levels of education and occupation were used to indicate SES. Linear regression analysis was used to examine the association between ethnicity and dietary pattern scores first and then between socio-economic indicators and dietary patterns within and between ethnic groups.

Results: ‘Noodle/rice dishes and white meat’, ‘red meat, snacks, and sweets’ and ‘vegetables, fruit and nuts’ patterns were identified. Compared to the Dutch origin participants, Surinamese more closely adhered to the ‘noodle/rice dishes and white meat’ pattern which was characterized by foods consumed in a ‘traditional Surinamese diet’. Closer adherence to the other two patterns was observed among Dutch compared to Surinamese origin participants. Ethnic differences in dietary patterns persisted within strata of education and occupation. Surinamese showed greater adherence to a ‘traditional’ pattern independent of SES. Among Dutch participants, a clear socio-economic gradient in all dietary patterns was observed. Such a gradient was only present among Surinamese dietary oatterns to the ‘vegetables, fruit and nuts’ pattern.

Conclusions: We found a selective change in the adherence to dietary patterns among Surinamese origin participants, presumably a move towards more vegetables and fruits with higher SES but continued fidelity to the traditional diet.

Keywords: dietary patterns; non-Western ethnic minority groups; education; occupation; socio-economic status; HELIUS study

(Published: 2 June 2015)

Citation: Food & Nutrition Research 2015, 59: 26317 -


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How to Cite
Dekker L. H., Nicolaou M., van Dam R. M., de Vries J. H. M., de Boer E. J., Brants H. A. M., Beukers M. H., Snijder M. B., & Stronks K. (2015). Socio-economic status and ethnicity are independently associated with dietary patterns: the HELIUS-Dietary Patterns study. Food & Nutrition Research, 59.
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