The current study involved nearly 22,000 adults, half of whom lived in the Southeast, representing a range of income and education levels.
Participants filled out a food frequency questionnaire about their diet over the past year. From these responses, the researchers grouped similar foods into categories, then looked at how food groups were consumed together to define dietary patterns. Participants each received a score reflecting how closely their diet resembled each pattern.
The researchers identified a number of trends, notably that younger age groups (45-54 years) were more likely than older adults to have a traditional diet, which features convenient, ready-to-eat foods.
And while black participants were associated with a southern diet, white people were more likely to have a traditional or sweet diet. These diet differences could not be explained by income and education differences alone, Judd said, adding that culture and upbringing probably play a part in eating habits.
Previous research suggests that one of the major culprits for increased stroke risk among black people is high blood pressure. The southern diet, and in particular sodium intake, probably has an effect on stroke risk by driving up blood pressure, although it may have other important effects, such as on obesity, Judd said.
"Not maintaining a healthy weight leads to so many problems in terms of how well blood vessels function," she explained.
Although studies have explored the intake of individual nutrients, such as sodium and calcium as well as fats and fiber, among black and white people, there is a less clear understanding of how overall diet differs between these groups.
Commenting on the study, Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, said, "We have to start looking at dietary patterns because it is about the whole of what we do; it is not single nutrients or single foods that are the
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