Background: Comprehensive and up-to-date data on differences in dietary intake according to various sociodemographic factors are needed to understand the potential impact of dietary factors on disease risks in the United States.
Methods: Usual dietary intake assessed by a food frequency questionnaire was examined in relation to race, sex, and educational attainment using baseline data obtained from randomly selected samples of 15,800 middle-aged black and white men and women who participated in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study.
Results: In almost all comparisons, higher educational attainment was associated with recommended dietary intake patterns--lower per energy intakes of meats, eggs, chicken with skin, and whole milk and higher intakes of fruits, vegetables, fish, chicken without skin, and low-fat milk. As expected from these food intake patterns, higher educational attainment was associated with lower intakes of saturated fatty acid and cholesterol and with higher intakes of dietary fiber and various micronutrients. Compared with women's diets, men's diets were slightly more atherogenic (in whites only) based upon Keys score and had lower micronutrient levels. Although there were large differences in the food intakes between blacks and whites, the differences in nutrient intakes were generally smaller. However, intakes of cholesterol and vitamin A were somewhat higher and intakes of saturated fatty acid, calcium, and potassium were lower among blacks than in whites.
Conclusions: This community-based study clearly demonstrated that regardless of race and sex, high educational attainment is associated with recommended dietary intake patterns. Continuing efforts to improve general educational level and to promote healthy dietary habits among those with low socioeconomic status are warranted.