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Grocery shopping

Choice, not cost, leads to unhealthy diet among poor, research reveals

Tuesday, October 16, 2007 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: grocery shopping, nutrition, health news


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(NewsTarget) Poor people in the United Kingdom do not have any worse of a diet than the general population, according to a study by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The study found that general nutrition, cooking skills and access to food were the same among the poorest one-sixth of the population as among the population at large.

Among the 3,500 low-income people surveyed, 80 percent reported access to large supermarkets and the majority had good facilities in their homes for cooking and storing food. The overwhelming majority of respondents -- 91 percent of women and 64 percent of men -- said that they know how to "cook from basic ingredients."

In the areas of fruit and vegetable consumption and sugar intake, the respondents' diets were slightly worse than that of the general population. Levels of smoking and alcohol consumption were higher, while activity levels were lower.

"The encouraging news from this research is that the gap between the diets of people on low incomes and those of the rest of the population is not as big as some feared," said Rosemary Hignett, FSA's head of nutrition. "However, the bad news is that this group -- like the general population -- are not eating as healthily as they could be."

In numbers comparable to those of the general UK population, 62 percent of adults and 34 percent of children in the study were either overweight or obese.

Dr. Alan Maryon Davis, president of the Faculty of Public Health, expressed surprise and pleasure with the results. But he said that if the survey results have been compared with the wealthiest sixth of the population rather than the average, the disparity might have been much greater.

As the study was conducted in the United Kingdom, it is unknown to what extent trends in other countries, such as the United States, might differ.

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