Examining diet as a whole using dietary patterns as exposures is a complementary method to using single food or nutrients in studies of diet and disease. Since the generalizability of patterns across race, region, and gender in the United States has not been established, Dr. Suzanne E. Judd, associate professor in the department of biostatistics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham — along with department volunteer Mr. Abraham J. Letter, as well as Dr. James M. Shikany, professor in UAB’s division of preventive medicine — recently employed rigorous statistical analysis to empirically derive dietary patterns in a large bi-racial, geographically diverse population and to examine whether results are stable across population subgroups.
The analysis utilized data from the REasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study — which investigates the factors that increase the risk for stroke — pertaining to 21,636 participants who completed the Block 98 Food Frequency Questionnaire. The researchers employed exploratory factor analysis and confirmatory factor analyses on 56 different food groups iteratively and examined differences by race, region, and sex to determine the optimal factor solution in the sample group.
Five dietary patterns emerged and showed strong congruence across race, sex and region: (1) the “Convenience” pattern was characterized by mixed dishes; (2) the “Plant-based” pattern by fruits, vegetables, and fish; (3) the “Sweets/Fats” pattern by sweet snacks, desserts, and fats and oils; (4) the “Southern” pattern by fried foods, organ meat, and sweetened beverages; and (5) the “Alcohol/Salads” pattern by beer, wine, liquor, and salads. Differences were most pronounced in the Southern pattern, with black participants, participants residing in the Southeast, and participants not completing high school having the highest scores.
Future research will examine associations between these patterns and health outcomes to better understand racial disparities in disease and inform prevention efforts.
“Dietary Patterns Derived Using Exploratory and Confirmatory Factor Analysis Are Stable and Generalizable across Race, Region, and Gender Subgroups in the REGARDS Study” was published in December 2014 in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.