Childless couples have healthier diets than families, says University research
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According to research by the University of Reading, couples with children have a poorer diet than those without.
The research that was carried out at the The Centre for Food Security indicated that childless couples ate 2kg more fruit and vegetables than families over a fortnight.
The Centre combines existing areas of research excellence at the University, including agriculture, food and nutritional sciences and psychology, to provide a platform for real-world research into diet and health.
The results formed part of a wider study into the uneven distribution of unhealthy diets in the population.
The study also looked into the regional variation in the demand for fruit and vegetables across the United Kingdom, with the highest demand in London and the South East and the lowest in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Professor Richard Tiffin, Director of the Centre for Food Security at the University, said: "There are clear distributional implications for dietary health that arise from these patterns of consumption and also for the health of children.
“They suggest that targeted interventions are necessary in order to reduce the incidence of diet-related health problems in the future."
Researchers at the University used the UK government's Expenditure and Food Survey (EFS) for 2003-2004, in which participating households voluntarily recorded food purchases for consumption at home for a two-week period using a food diary.
The final sample was based on 7,014 households in 672 postcode sectors stratified by Government Office Region, socioeconomic group and car ownership. In order to capture seasonal variations the sample was carried out throughout the calendar year.
The study also revealed that the presence of children in a household lead to a lower level of demand for fruit and vegetables and meat, and an increased demand for milk and dairy, cereals and potatoes.
The results also highlighted the role played by low incomes and socio-economic circumstances in dietary choices.
It was found that on average an individual in unemployment consumed over 3kg less fruit than an otherwise identical individual living in a household of two, over a period of two weeks. Likewise, for two identical households, a difference in income of 10 per cent could potentially lead to a difference in demand for fruit and vegetables of up to 500g.
Professor Tiffin said: "Our results imply that households which have a higher level of expenditure will tend to consume proportionately more meat and more fresh fruit and vegetables. Households in London and the South East have higher levels of fruit and vegetable consumption while it is reduced by the presence of children.
"The dietary components that we have analysed have important implications for policy-makers in tackling diet-related chronic disease, which represents one of the most significant public health challenges of the 21st century."