May 7, 2009

Immigrants pick up bad Western diet habits

Immigrant populations in Europe face an increased risk of diet-related diseases as they adjust to a Western lifestyle, scientists in Britain said.

The study, published in the journal Nutrition Reviews, found immigrant populations replace the healthy components of their native diet with the worst aspects of Western diets, such as processed and fast-foods.

Dr. Santosh Khokhar of the University of Leeds examined changes to the diets of African-Caribbeans, Chinese, Mexicans, Moroccans, Surinamese, South Asians and Turks living in Europe.

The study found ethnic groups with low incomes had the most restricted food choice, as the foods of their traditional diet had to be imported, which was more expensive. In comparison, the availability of the unhealthiest Western food was very high and also low cost.

The inclusion of snack foods such as french fries, chips and cakes leads to ethnic populations having higher levels of fat, salt and sugar in their diet, Khokhar said in a statement.

Khokhar added that groups in lower socioeconomic communities often eat poorer quality foods, such as cheaper cuts of meat with more fat. They also tend to buy less fruits and vegetables and they consume more processed foods.