Nutrition: Diet, Physical Activity and Socioeconomics Interview with:
Jonas D. Finger and  Dr. Gert B.M. Mensink
Jonas Finger, MPhil (Epidemiology) MA (Sports Sc) MA (Political Sc)
Robert Koch-Institute – Department of Epidemiology and Health MonitoringDivision 24 – Interview surveys and European collaboration
General-Pape-Straße 62-66, 12101 Berlin Germany What are the main findings of the study?

Answer: People with a low level of education consume energy dense foods (sugar- and fat-rich foods) more frequently and low energy foods (fruit and vegetables) and alcohol less frequently compared to people with a high level of education. A new study aspect is that the role of physical activity level for the link between education and high energy food intake was also investigated. People with a low level of education have more frequently physically-demanding jobs leading to a higher level of total energy expenditure compared to sedentary office workers (mainly high educated). The latter are more active in their leisure time. The study provides some evidence to support the hypothesis that the low educated consumed more energy dense foods than the high educated because they expend more energy due to the physical work they do. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Answer: It is often stated that people from low socioeconomic position ‘behave unhealthy’, since they exercise less in their leisure time and eat the wrong foods (too much energy dense foods, not enough fruits and vegetables). In light of the findings of our study, these behavioral patterns seem to be linked, however, to other living conditions like physical work and total energy expenditure. The health promotion message for physical workers (mainly low educated) should therefore not be simply to consume less energy dense foods. The message should rather be to compensate the high level of energy expenditure with high-quality, energy dense food, which contains high amounts of complex carbohydrates (e.g. whole grain products) and plant fats, instead of sugar and saturated fat. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Answer: For studies on the link between socioeconomic position and dietary behavior, we recommend to consider the level of work-related physical activity and total energy expenditure.


Citation: Finger JD, Tylleskär T, Lampert T, Mensink GBM (2013) Dietary Behaviour and Socioeconomic Position: The Role of Physical Activity Patterns. PLoS ONE 8(11): e78390. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0078390

Last Updated on February 2, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD