Objective: To assess the relationship between education and the intake of a variety of individual foods, as well as groups of foods, for Australian men and women in different age groups.
Design: Cross-sectional national survey of free-living men and women.
Subjects: A sample of 2501 men and 2739 women aged 18 years and over who completed the National Nutrition Survey (NNS) 1995.
Methods: Information about the frequency of consumption of 88 food items was obtained using a food-frequency questionnaire in a nation-wide nutrition survey. Irregular and regular consumers of foods were identified according to whether they consumed individual foods less than or more than once per month. The relationship between single foods and an index of education (no post-school qualifications, vocational, university) was analysed via contingency table chi-square statistics for men and women. Food group variety scores were derived by assigning individual foods to conventional food group taxonomies, and then summing the dichotomised intake scores for individual foods within each food group. Two-way analyses of variance (education by age groups) were performed on food variety scores for men and women, separately.
Results: While university-educated men and women consumed many individual foods more regularly than less-educated people, they were less likely to be regular consumers of several meat products. The relationship between education and food consumption was less apparent when individual food scores were aggregated into food group scores. University-educated men and women exhibited higher scores on total food group variety than the other educational groups.
Conclusions: Higher education is associated with the regular consumption of a wider variety of foods. Aggregation of individual food consumption indices into food variety scores may mask the apparent effects of educational background on food consumption.