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Compared with UK white Europeans, South Asian adults have increased risks of obesity, type 2 diabetes, stroke and coronary heart disease (CHD); black African-Caribbean adults have increased risks of obesity, type 2 diabetes and stroke with lower CHD risk. Dietary differences could be important in explaining these ethnic differences, which appear to emerge in early life. However, few systematic attempts have been made to define the extent of ethnic differences in diet, particularly in children.
To examine ethnic variations in nutritional composition of the diets of children of South Asian, black African-Caribbean and white European origin in the UK.
24 hour recalls of dietary intake were carried out during a cross-sectional survey of children attending 85 Primary Schools in London, Birmingham and Leicester.
2210 children aged 9–10 years, including 567 of South Asian, 595 of black African-Caribbean and 601 of white European origins.
Compared to white Europeans, South Asian children reported higher mean total energy intake (mean difference 96 kcal, 95% CI 35 157 kcal), fat % energy (mean difference 1.3%, 95% 0.5 to 2.1%) and protein % energy (mean difference 0.9%, 95% CI 0.5 to 1.3%). Their intakes of carbohydrate as a proportion of energy (particularly sugars), vitamin C and D, calcium and haem iron intakes were lower. These differences were especially marked for Bangladeshi children. Black African Caribbean children had lower intakes of total fat % energy (mean difference −1.3%, 95% CI −2.0 to −0.5) and saturated fat % energy (mean difference −1.2%, 95% CI −1.6 to −0.8). They also consumed less non-starch polysaccharide, vitamin D and calcium; whilst intakes of haem iron were higher. The lower intakes of fat (including saturated fat) were particularly marked among black African children.
Appreciable ethnic differences exist in the nutritional composition of children’s diets. These patterns could influence early emerging differences in disease risk and, if maintained, could contribute to continuing ethnic differences in disease risk in the next generation.