How diverse is the diet of adult South Africans?
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Background: The objective of the current study was to measure dietary diversity in South Africans aged 16 years and older from all population groups as a proxy of food security.
Methods: A cross-sectional study representative of adults from all specified ages, provinces, geographic localities, and socio-economic strata in South Africa was used (n = 3287). Trained interviewers visited participants at their homes during the survey. Dietary data was collected by means of a face validated 24 hour recall which was not quantified. A dietary diversity score (DDS) was calculated by counting each of 9 food groups. A DDS <4 was regarded as reflecting poor dietary diversity and poor food security.
Results: The provinces with the highest prevalence of poor dietary diversity (DDS <4) were Limpopo (61.8%) and the Eastern Cape (59.6%). By contrast, only 15.7% of participants in Western Cape had a low score. Participants in tribal areas (63.9%) and informal urban areas (55.7%) were by far the worst affected. There were significant differences in DDS by Living Standards Mean (LSM) analysis (p < 0.05) with the lowest LSM group having the lowest mean DDS (2.93).The most commonly consumed food groups were cereals/roots; meat/fish; dairy and vegetables other than vitamin A rich. Eggs, legumes, and vitamin A rich fruit and vegetables were the least consumed.
Conclusion: Overall the majority of South Africans consumed a diet low in dietary variety. The tribal areas and informal urban areas were worst affected and eggs, legumes and vitamin A rich fruit and vegetables, were the least consumed.