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The prevalence of chronic diseases is increasing in West Africa, the Caribbean and its migrants to Britain. This trend may be due to the transition in the habitual diet, with increasing (saturated) fat and decreasing fruit and vegetable intakes, both within and between countries.
We have tested this hypothesis by comparing habitual diet in four African-origin populations with a similar genetic background at different stages in this transition.
The study populations included subjects from rural Cameroon (n=743), urban Cameroon (n=1042), Jamaica (n=857) and African–Caribbeans in Manchester, UK (n=243), all aged 25–74 years. Habitual diet was assessed by a food-frequency questionnaire, specifically developed for each country separately.
Total energy intake was greatest in rural Cameroon and lowest in Manchester for all age/sex groups. A tendency towards the same pattern was seen for carbohydrates, protein and total fat intake. Saturated and polyunsaturated fat intake and alcohol intake were highest in rural Cameroon, and lowest in Jamaica, with the intakes in the UK lower than those in urban Cameroon. The percentage of energy from total fat was higher in rural and urban Cameroon than in Jamaica and the UK for all age/sex groups. The opposite was seen for percentage of energy from carbohydrate intake, the intake being highest in Jamaica and lowest in rural Cameroon. The percentage of energy from protein increased gradually from rural Cameroon to the UK.
These results do not support our hypothesis that carbohydrate intake increased, while (saturated) fat intake decreased, from rural Cameroon to the UK.
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