Friday, February 6, 2009

Diet and overweight perception among ethnic minorities in the Netherlands

Yesterday Mary Nicolaou defended her doctoral thesis entitled “Diet and overweight perception. An explorative study among Turkish, Moroccan and Surinamese living in the Netherlands.”
People from non-western origin make up about 11% of the Dutch population, but in some age ranges in the larger cities, this is close to 50%. For such a large proporion of the population, we know very little about eating habits and nutrition behavioral determinants. Mary’s thesis research shows that the diet of these population groups is to some extent more healthful than that of native Dutch: more fruits, vegetables and fish, and less red meat. Nevertheless, prevalence of obesity and metabolic disease is higher.
In one of the studies presented in the thesis and to be published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, determinants of food choice and eating habits were explored by means of focus group discussions among Dutch residents from Moroccan and Turkish origin. The study indicated that social environmental factors, especially the central role of food in hospitality, firmly rooted in cultural and religious tradition, appeared to be a driver of food habits. The central role of food in the western environment of abundance may be one of the determinants of the higher obesity prevalence. Other studies presented in the thesis appeared in Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, Public Health Nutrition, and Public Health.