Using exploratory factor analysis of FFQ data to identify dietary patterns among Yup'ik people

Public Health Nutr. 2014 Mar;17(3):510-8. doi: 10.1017/S1368980012005411. Epub 2013 Jan 4.


Objective: An FFQ developed by the Center for Alaska Native Health Research for studies in Yup'ik people includes market foods and subsistence foods such as moose, seal, waterfowl and salmon that may be related to disease risk. Because the FFQ contains >100 food items, we sought to characterize dietary patterns more simply for use in ongoing pharmacogenomics studies.

Design: Exploratory factor analysis was used to derive a small number of 'factors' that explain a substantial amount of the variation in the Yup'ik diet. We estimated factor scores and measured associations with demographic characteristics and biomarkers.

Setting: South-west Alaska, USA.

Subjects: Yup'ik people (n 358) aged ≥18 years.

Results: We identified three factors that each accounted for ≥10 % of the common variance: the first characterized by 'processed foods' (e.g. salty snacks, sweetened cereals); the second by 'fruits and vegetables' (e.g. fresh citrus, potato salad); and the third by 'subsistence foods' (seal or walrus soup, non-oily fish). Participants from coastal communities had higher values for the 'subsistence' factor, whereas participants from inland communities had higher values for the 'fruits and vegetables' factor. A biomarker of marine intake, δ 15N, was correlated with the 'subsistence' factor, whereas a biomarker of corn- and sugarcane-based market food intake, δ 13C, was correlated with 'processed foods'.

Conclusions: The exploratory factor analysis identified three factors that appeared to reflect dietary patterns among Yup'ik based on associations with participant characteristics and biomarkers. These factors will be useful for chronic disease studies in this population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alaska / ethnology
  • Biomarkers
  • Carbon Isotopes / analysis
  • Carbon Isotopes / blood
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Diet / ethnology*
  • Diet / psychology
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data
  • Energy Intake*
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical*
  • Female
  • Food Preferences / psychology
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nitrogen Isotopes / analysis
  • Nitrogen Isotopes / blood
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Population Groups / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Carbon Isotopes
  • Nitrogen Isotopes