Food consumption patterns in an adult urban population in Beirut, Lebanon

Lara Nasreddine, Nahla Hwalla, Abla Sibai, Mouïn Hamzé, Dominique Parent-Massin
Public Health Nutrition 2006, 9 (2): 194-203

OBJECTIVES: To investigate, measure and assess the food consumption pattern of the adult population living in Beirut, Lebanon, and to identify inadequate or excessive intake of food groups particularly linked to non-communicable diseases.

DESIGN: A cross-sectional food consumption survey was conducted in 2001. Dietary habits were assessed by means of a quantitative food-frequency questionnaire.

SETTING: Dietary survey of the urban population (Beirut).

SUBJECTS: Random sample of 444 adult subjects (aged 25-54 years) in Beirut.

RESULTS: The mean consumption of food by the study population was estimated to be 3,030 g day(-1), providing an energy intake of 2,523.57 kcal day(-1). Fat contributed 38.9% to the average daily energy intake, protein 13.4% and carbohydrates 47.2%. Mean consumption of fruits and vegetables was approximately 367 g day(-1) and 45.3% of subjects consumed less than the recommended 400 g daily. Cereals contributed 324.5 g day(-1), providing 35.0% of daily energy intake, with bread being the most highly consumed (146.2 g day(-1)) in this food group. The mean intake of meat and poultry products was 91.7 g day(-1) and provided 8.8% of daily energy intake, with consumption of butchery products especially beef being the highest (47.6 g day(-1)) followed by poultry (36.1 g day(-1)). A low consumption of fish was noted (19.7 g day(-1)), with 73.6% of subjects consuming less than the recommended 2 servings of fish per week. Dairy products contributed 243.1 g day(-1) or 10.9% of daily energy intake, and milk was the least consumed dairy product (56.8% of consumers). The intake of added fats and oils, excluding those in cooked recipes, was 20.4 g day(-1); olive oil was not used in cooking but was added solely at the table and its mean intake was 5 g day(-1). The consumption of butter was low (0.86 g day(-1)) and vegetable oil was the type of fat mostly used in cooking. The average intake of alcoholic beverages was low (33.6 g day(-1)), accounting for 0.7% of total energy intake. Women had significantly higher intakes of milk, dairy products, vegetables and coffee than men (P < 0.05). The percentage of women who reported the use of low-fat items was significantly higher than that of men. Younger people (25-34 years) ate significantly more meat, sugar, alcoholic beverages and soft drinks, and consumed significantly less cooked vegetables and legumes, than older ones (P < 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: The rather high contribution of fat to daily energy intake, the low intake of fish and the relatively high percentage of people consuming less than the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables observed in this study suggest that the adult Lebanese population is at increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, obesity and other non-communicable diseases, which provides the basis for recommending increased intakes of fish, particularly fatty fish, and fruits and vegetables.

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