Press Release – University of Auckland
Many Asian New Zealanders are more likely to change their diet, the longer they live here, according to a new study.Unique study into Asian nutrition in New Zealand
University of Auckland
25 June 2014
Many Asian New Zealanders are more likely to change their diet, the longer they live here, according to a new study.
The study looking at the similarities and differences in diet, nutrition and health for Asian subgroups in New Zealand used data from the 2008/09 Adult National Nutrition Survey.
The results suggest that the longer some Asians live in New Zealand, the more likely they are to adopt some features of a European diet.
This was more so for South Asians in contrast to East and South East Asians (ESEA).
About 10 per cent of participants in the Adult National Nutrition survey identified with “Asian ethnicity” and this was comparable to the percentage in the New Zealand population. The majority of these people were migrants who had lived in New Zealand for less than 10 years.
They were divided into sub-groups; South Asians, (people who identified as Indian, Bangladeshi, Nepalese, Pakistani, Fiji Indian, Afghani and Sri Lankan); or East and South East Asian (people who identified as Chinese, Malaysian, Taiwanese, Filipino, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Burmese, Indonesian, Thai, Japanese, Korean and Tibetan).
New Zealand European and ‘Others’ (NZEO) included all other ethnicities such as Latin American and African.
The analysis for Asian participants was done by Dr Sherly Parackal from the University of Auckland’s School of Population Health, (in collaboration with researchers Dr Claire Smith and Associate Professor Winsome Parnell, from the Department of Human Nutrition at the University of Otago).
“This is the first time this type of analysis using national data has been done in New Zealand for Asians,” says Dr Parackal. “The analysis has enabled comparisons between the two Asian sub-groups and provides new information on their similarities and differences in dietary intakes and health outcomes.”
The study found there were significant differences between the Asian sub-groups regarding the dietary guidelines for fruit and vegetables, bread, milk and meat consumption.
“A different dietary profile was evident for the Asian sub-groups with higher percent energy from carbohydrate than NZEO, due to their predominantly carbohydrate based diets,” she says.
“A unique aspect of the South Asian sub-group was that in contrast to ESEA, they reported consuming lower amounts of meat, poultry and processed meats than NZEO,” she says. “It followed that South Asians also had lower intakes of fat, protein (among females), and saturated fats and cholesterol (among males).
“Vitamins and minerals such as retinol, niacin, vitamin B12 and zinc were also lower among South Asian females. Given the high percentage of South Asians reporting that they never eat red meat or chicken, it is not surprising that biochemical indices of iron status were lower for this group,” says Dr Parackal.
“Some significant differences according to how long they have been in New Zealand have also been reported, particularly for South Asian males,” she says. “These results highlight the importance of accounting for variations in dietary patterns within Asian sub-groups to understand diet-related disease risk factors in these groups.
Fast food consumption “more than three times per week” was reported by 19 percent of South Asian males in the study, compared to seven percent of NZEO males. By contrast, among women, the South Asian females seldom consumed fast food (0.4 percent).
“The reasons for this gender difference is unclear and warrants further study, especially as South Asian males are at high risk of diet-related chronic diseases,” says Dr Parackal.
She says that although some differences were not of statistical significance due to the small sample sizes, the strong prevalence of diagnosed diabetes among South Asians (12 percent) in comparison to the other study participants could not be ignored.
“Using ethnic specific cut-offs* the prevalence of obesity among South Asian males and females was much higher than NZEO and NSEA females,” says Dr Parackal.
“The results of this study show that dietary habits, nutrient intakes, blood indices and body size differ significantly between Asian Subgroups and emphasises the need to acknowledge these differences in future diet and disease-related research,” she says.
“Future national surveys should include an adequate sample of Asian sub-groups so that researchers can draw comparisons and make recommendations for the public health status of these groups.”