Exploring the link between dietary habits and metabolic health risks in non-communicable diseases

In a recent study published in Scientific Reports, researchers identified and evaluated the associations of principal dietary patterns with metabolic risk factors in adults from Northwest Ethiopia.

Study: Dietary patterns and associations with metabolic risk factors for non-communicable disease. Image Credit: Serhiy Stakhnyk/Shutterstock.comStudy: Dietary patterns and associations with metabolic risk factors for non-communicable disease. Image Credit: Serhiy Stakhnyk/Shutterstock.com

Background 

Metabolic risk factors like abdominal obesity, high body mass index (BMI), and hypertension are key contributors to the rising burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) globally, with significant impact in developing countries.

These factors cause metabolic disturbances leading to chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases (CVDs). Over one billion people worldwide are affected by hypertension, and obesity rates are alarmingly high.

Dietary habits significantly influence these risk factors. Studies indicate a shift towards unhealthy, processed food consumption due to food security issues and cultural changes.

Further research is needed to understand how regional dietary patterns in developing countries like Ethiopia affect metabolic risk factors and to inform effective nutrition interventions and policies for NCD prevention.

About the study 

In a community-based cross-sectional survey conducted from May to June 2021 in Bahir Dar, Northwest Ethiopia, 423 adults were recruited from residential houses using a systematic random sampling technique.

This sample size was calculated based on assumptions of a 50% prevalence rate, a 95% confidence level, and a 10% estimated non-response rate. Eligible participants were adults aged 18 to 65, residing in the area for at least six months.

Adults' nutrition was assessed using a validated food frequency questionnaire (FFQ), which included fourteen food groups: vegetables, fruits, cereals, meat, dairy, and fast foods. Participants were asked about their frequency of consuming these food groups in the past month.

Physical measurements like weight, hip/waist circumference, height, and blood pressure were performed using standardized tools. Blood pressure measurements were taken twice, and the average was used for analysis.

Hypertension was defined as blood pressure ≥ 140/90 mmHg. BMI was calculated, with 25–30 kg/m² values classified as overweight and ≥ 30 as obesity. Waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) was also calculated, with ≥ 0.85 for females and ≥ 0.90 for males indicating abdominal obesity.

Data were coded and analyzed using Epi Data software and SPSS. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) was used to identify dietary patterns, and logistic regression analysis examined associations between dietary patterns and metabolic risk factors.

Variables showing associations in bivariable analysis were adjusted in multivariable logistic regression to identify significant predictors. The study adhered to ethical guidelines and received approvals from relevant committees.

Study results 

The present study conducted in Northwest Ethiopia identified four principal dietary patterns among 415 adults: the 'westernized' and 'traditional' patterns.

The Westernized pattern was marked by higher consumption of meat, dairy, fruits, fast foods, alcoholic drinks, fish, and sweet foods. Conversely, the traditional pattern was characterized by frequent intake of vegetables, legumes, roots, cereals, tubers, coffee, and oils.

The prevalence of metabolic risk factors like hypertension, overweight/obesity, and abdominal obesity varied across the population. Notably, hypertension was significantly lower in adults who adhered more to the Westernized dietary pattern.

Specifically, those in this pattern's third and fourth quantiles were 72% and 65% less likely to have hypertension, respectively, than those in the first. However, no significant associations were observed between the dietary patterns and other metabolic risk factors like overweight/obesity and abdominal obesity.

Demographically, younger, married, and middle-income adults were more inclined toward the westernized pattern, while females and middle-income individuals were more associated with the traditional pattern. These associations highlight the influence of socioeconomic and lifestyle factors on dietary choices in the region.

Furthermore, the study's findings add to the growing body of evidence on the impact of dietary habits on health outcomes, particularly in developing countries.

Identifying these specific dietary patterns in Northwest Ethiopia provides valuable insights into local food consumption trends and their implications for metabolic health. This knowledge is crucial for formulating targeted interventions and policies to combat the rising burden of NCDs in the region, driven partly by dietary factors. 

The results underscore the complexity of dietary habits and their association with health outcomes, which are influenced by geography, culture, socioeconomic status, and individual lifestyle choices.

This complexity necessitates further research to unravel the intricate relationships between diet and health, especially in rapidly changing societies.

Conclusions 

The present study identified 'westernized' and 'traditional' dietary patterns among adults. The Westernized way, rich in fruits, meat, and fast foods, significantly correlated with lower hypertension rates, especially in higher quantiles.

However, no substantial link was found between the traditional pattern, focused on cereals and vegetables, and metabolic risks like hypertension or obesity.

Demographic trends showed younger, married, and middle-income adults favoring the Westernized pattern, while the traditional pattern was more common among females and middle-income individuals. These insights are vital for developing region-specific dietary interventions to address the rising burden of NCDs.

Journal reference:
Vijay Kumar Malesu

Written by

Vijay Kumar Malesu

Vijay holds a Ph.D. in Biotechnology and possesses a deep passion for microbiology. His academic journey has allowed him to delve deeper into understanding the intricate world of microorganisms. Through his research and studies, he has gained expertise in various aspects of microbiology, which includes microbial genetics, microbial physiology, and microbial ecology. Vijay has six years of scientific research experience at renowned research institutes such as the Indian Council for Agricultural Research and KIIT University. He has worked on diverse projects in microbiology, biopolymers, and drug delivery. His contributions to these areas have provided him with a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter and the ability to tackle complex research challenges.    

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