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J Nutr. 2012 Dec;142(12):2175-81. doi: 10.3945/jn.112.166611. Epub 2012 Oct 24.

Jews and Arabs in the same region in Israel exhibit major differences in dietary patterns.

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  • 1Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit, Gertner Institute for Epidemiology and Health Policy Research, Ramat Gan, Israel.


The Jewish majority and Arab minority populations in Israel exhibit disparities in nutrition-related chronic diseases, but comparative, population-based dietary studies are lacking. We evaluated ethnic differences in dietary patterns in a population-based, cross-sectional study of Arab and Jewish urban adults (n = 1104; age 25-74 y). Dietary intake was assessed with an interviewer-administered, quantified FFQ. We used principal-component analysis to identify 4 major dietary patterns: Ethnic, Healthy, Fish and Meat Dishes, and Middle Eastern Snacks and Fast Food. The Ethnic and Healthy patterns exhibited major ethnic differences. Participants in the top Ethnic intake tertile (97% Arab) had modified Mediterranean-style Arabic dietary habits, whereas those in the bottom Ethnic tertile (98% Jewish) had central/northern European-style dietary habits. The Arab participants with less strongly ethnicity-associated dietary habits were younger [OR for 10-y decrease = 1.42 (95% CI: 1.21-1.68)] and male [OR = 2.23 (95% CI: 1.53-3.25)]. Jews with less strongly ethnicity-associated dietary habits were less recent immigrants [OR = 8.97 (95% CI: 5.05-15.92)], older [OR for 10-y decrease = 0.80 (95% CI: 0.69-0.92)], had post-secondary education [OR = 2.04 (95% CI: 1.06-3.94)], and reported other healthy lifestyle behaviors. In relation to the Healthy pattern, Arabs were less likely than Jews to be in the top intake tertile, but the magnitude of the difference was less in diabetic participants. Participants reporting other healthy lifestyle behaviors were more likely to have a high intake of the Healthy pattern. Substantial differences were found between Arabs and Jews in dietary patterns and suggest a need for culturally congruent dietary interventions to address nutrition-related chronic disease disparities.

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