Academic journal article Journal of Health Population and Nutrition

Food Habits and Nutrient Density of Diets of Pakistani Children Living in Different Urban and Rural Settings

Academic journal article Journal of Health Population and Nutrition

Food Habits and Nutrient Density of Diets of Pakistani Children Living in Different Urban and Rural Settings

Article excerpt


Urbanization, an inevitable outcome of economic development, refers to the transition from a rural society to one in which a growing proportion of the population live in cities. The positive relationship between higher levels of economic welfare and urbanization is a strong one, consistently confirmed by various studies. Dietary patterns are often affected by urbanization status and are associated with rural-urban differences in health and nutritional status (1-4). However, the trends are not always uniform. While there are reports of intake of higher energy, fat, and micronutrients by rural populations (5, 6), the typical trend is that of increase in lipid and calorie intake and decreased intake of micronutrients with urbanization (6-10). The rural-urban differences in the intake of micronutrients could be more varied in various parts of the world.

These discrepancies are understandable if we view urbanization as a linear phenomenon. Administrative demarcations do not segregate the population in two homogenous groups. Within each official category, the differences in affluence and/or lifestyle may make certain groups more urbanized than others. Furthermore, other factors, such as affluence and cultural background, may also intervene to check or promote the adoption of certain components of urbanized lifestyle. Thus, dietary intake of various urban and rural groups may vary, and vulnerability for malnutrition may not be linearly associated with urbanization. To identify specific dietary inadequacies within any group, understanding of differences in various urban and rural groups is important.

This study was undertaken to assess the differences in food habits of various urban and rural groups aimed at exploring any relationships between apparent level of urbanization of the sociodemographic group to which children belonged and nutrient density of their diets.


Study subjects

To study the association between urbanization and food habits, frequency of food consumption and nutrient density of the diets of six groups of school children, aged 10-12 years, representing various urbanization categories, were compared. This particular age group was selected for two reasons: first, because of the importance of this stage in terms of dietary transitions--from dependence on parents to individualization of food choices, and second, because of their expected ability to record their dietary intake.

To assess various genetically similar groups of South Asian children having differing lifestyles, five groups of South Asian children having familial origins in a similar geographical area (Punjab) were recruited from Pakistan and the UK. The first group consisted of children from an officially-designated rural area of Punjab. The second and third groups were recruited from a large metropolis of Punjab. The less-affluent group, due to lack of fiscal resources, was estimated to have a less-urbanized lifestyle than the more affluent one. The fourth and fifth groups of children recruited from Slough, UK, indicate a further higher level of urbanization because of being born and brought up in a more developed country. Since more than 90% of the British Indian children were non-vegetarian Sikhs and since the families of both British Pakistani and British Indian children originated from the Pakistani and Indian provinces of Punjab, the differences in religion were not expected to confound the results. However, the British Indian children were considered to be more urbanized than the British Pakistani children because of a longer period of stay of their parents in the UK. The mean length of stay of mothers of the former group was 17 years and that of the later group was 20 years, and the difference was statistically significant at p<0.05 level.

Assessment of acculturation of dietary habits and extent of exposure to western culture according to a test previously used by Kassam-Khamis (11) also showed that British Indian children were relatively more exposed to western culture and were consuming western food more often than British Pakistani children. …

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