What are the major dietary patterns in Malaysia?

Dietary pattern analysis evaluates the effects of the overall diet and the complex interactions between nutrient components. Understanding the heterogeneity of dietary patterns in a population is important because it may contribute to disparities in disease prevalence. Previous studies have reported dietary patterns specific to sex, ethnicity and region.

Malaysia is a multiethnic country with Malays, Chinese, and Indians being the three major ethnic groups. Although dietary patterns among Malaysians have been reported, the heterogeneity of dietary patterns across subgroups has not been studied. Given the disparities in disease prevalence across sex, ethnicity and urban status, the consistency and generalisability of dietary patterns across these subgroups were explored. The current study used data from the CLUSTer project.

From a total of 4,618 participants, Western and Prudent diets were the two major dietary patterns identified using factor analysis. Western diet was characterised by high intakes in oily rice, noodles, white bread, sandwich/bun/pau, roti canai, red meat, organ meat, poultry, satay, processed meat, preserved food, fish, seafood, soups with meat, snacks, sweet soups, condiments, tea, sweetened beverages, added sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and fast food. Prudent diet is loaded with pulses, legumes, green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, other vegetables, root vegetables, starchy vegetables, mixed vegetables, vegetable soups, and fruits. These dietary patterns were consistent and generalizable across sex, ethnicity, and urban status.

Western and Prudent dietary patterns were most commonly reported among Western and non-Western populations. Although the characteristics of the Western dietary pattern varied across studies, it was noted that refined grains, red meat, processed meat, fast food, and sugar-sweetened beverages were consistently reported. Generally, the Prudent dietary pattern observed in previous studies was loaded with healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains, similar to the current study. It is common for dietary patterns with similar labels to reveal some diverse food groups across populations, probably due to differences in food cultures and dietary assessment tools used.

The Western and Prudent dietary patterns derived in the current study shared most of the components described in the literature. These dietary patterns are believed to be the ones closest to the true dietary patterns of our study population.

Ms Eng Jui Yee, a PhD candidate under the supervision of Assoc Prof Moy Foong Ming, Prof Sanjay Rampal and Prof Awang Bulgiba published the findings in the paper Consistency and Generalizability of Dietary Patterns in a Multiethnic Working Population. [J Acad Nutr Diet (Impact factor: 3.399) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29615325]

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