Clustering of unhealthy food habits and its association with socioeconomic factors among Brazilian workers

ABSTRACT Objective Investigate the clustering of four unhealthy food habits (low intake of fruits, low intake of vegetables, high intake of candy, and high intake of fried snacks), and to identify the association between the number of these clustered habits and sociodemographic variables. Methods This was a cross-sectional representative study of industrial workers from 24 Federative Units in Brazil conducted between 2006 and 2008. The low weekly intake of fruits and vegetables (<5 days/week) and high weekly intake of candy and fried snacks (≥5 days/weeks) were evaluated using a validated questionnaire. Simultaneity was analyzed with stratification by sex, calculating the Observed (O) and Expected (E) prevalence and the O/E ratio for each of the 16 possible food intake combinations. Results Among the 47,477 workers studied, in both men and women, the simultaneous presence of high weekly intake of candy and fried snacks(O/E=3.58; 95%CI=3.12–4.10 and O/E=2.17; 95%CI=1.76–2.62) and of the four unhealthy food habits (O/E=2.32; 95%CI=2.01–2.66 and O/E=4.02; 95%CI=3.44–4.65) exceeded the expected percentages if these foods were consumed separately. When compared to subjects without or with only one unhealthy food habit, the combination of the four negative dietary behaviors was more frequent among women, workers with a lower education level, and those living without a partner. Conclusion Unhealthy food habits tend to cluster together in both sexes, suggesting a strong interaction, particularly for the four unhealthy food habits together, especially among women, less educated workers and without a partner.