Background: Childhood obesity is an escalating health concern with important implications, including increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Although South Asians in the UK have an increased risk of developing these conditions, detailed studies on their lifestyles including the dietary habits of young people are scarce.
Methods: As part of an action research project, a food intake questionnaire was used to survey the dietary habits of 11–15-year olds attending five inner-city schools serving a predominantly South Asian population. Food choices were considered in the overall sample and in South Asians compared with white Europeans.
Results: 3418 (72% of registered pupils) responses were obtained. A subset of 3018 pupils could be categorised as either South Asian (86%) or white European (14%). Around one fifth of pupils started the school day without eating anything. Responses indicated high consumption of “negative” foods such as sweets, including Asian sweets (63%), but lower rates for “positive” foods such as vegetables (34%). In the full sample, 26% said they had consumed more than one can of sugar-sweetened fizzy drink and 17% reported eating more than one packet of full-fat crisps on the previous day. Poor dietary habits were indicated in both South Asian and white European pupils.
Conclusions: Our large-scale survey confirmed poor dietary habits in secondary school pupils from a multiethnic community. Urgent efforts are needed to find ways of encouraging healthy lifestyles, particularly in populations with a high risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
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Funding: The SALAD action research project was funded by the British Heart Foundation.
Competing interests: None.
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