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Families have unhealthier diets than childless couples

Research by the University of Reading has found that couples with children have a poorer diet than those without. On average, statistics showed that childless couples ate 2kg more fruit and vegetables than families over a fortnight. The results formed part of a study that looked at the uneven distribution of unhealthy diets in the population. It also showed that regional variation in the demand for fruit and vegetables is pronounced, with the highest demand in London and the South East and the lowest in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Professor Richard Tiffin, Director of the Centre for Food Security at the University, said: “There are clear distributional implications for dietary health that arise from these patterns of consumption and also for the health of children. They suggest that targeted interventions are necessary in order to reduce the incidence of diet-related health problems in the future.” The study revealed that the presence of children in a household leads to a lower level of demand for fruit and vegetables and meat, and an increased demand for milk and dairy, cereals and potatoes.

The results also emphasised the role played by low incomes and socio-economic circumstances in poor dietary choices. Comparing an unemployed individual with an otherwise identical individual living in a household of two, the former consumed over 3kg less fruit over a period of two weeks. Similarly, for two identical households, a difference in income of 10 per cent can be expected to lead to a difference in demand for fruit and vegetables of around 500g.

Professor Tiffin said: “Our results imply that households which have a higher level of expenditure will tend to consume proportionately more meat and more fresh fruit and vegetables. Households in London and the South East have higher levels of fruit and vegetable consumption while it is reduced by the presence of children. “The dietary components that we have analysed have important implications for policy-makers in tackling diet-related chronic disease, which represents one of the most significant public health challenges of the 21st century.”

The paper, 'The demand for a healthy diet: estimating the almost ideal demand system with infrequency of purchase, by R. Tiffin (University of Reading) and M. Arnoult (Scottish Agricultural College), is published this month in The European Review of Agricultural Economics – http://erae.oxfordjournals.org/content/current

Researchers used the UK government's Expenditure and Food Survey (EFS) for 2003-2004. Participating households voluntarily record food purchases for consumption at home for a two-week period using a food diary. The sample is based on 7,014 households in 672 postcode sectors stratified by Government Office Region, socioeconomic group and car ownership. It is carried out throughout the UK and throughout the year in order to capture seasonal variations.
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Mediterranean Diet Increases Fertility

Before treatment, the couple completed detailed questionnaires on their eating habits over the past month. When the researchers analysed the data, they identified two common diet patterns among the women. 1). The Mediterranean diet – defined as high in vegetables, vegetable bits, fish and beans, but low in snack foods and 2). The health conscious diet – which is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and fish, and low in meat and snack foods.

The researchers found there was no link between the health-conscious diet and rates of pregnancy. But, the group that most closely adhered to the Mediterranean diet was more likely to become pregnant. The researchers did not assess pregnancy outcome, so the diet's relationship to the ultimate success of fertility treatment is not clear.

The Mediterranean and health-conscious diets had many similarities, but there are a few potential reasons why the former may affect fertility treatment success said the researchers.

One is the high intake of vegetable oils in the Mediterranean diet. Researchers noted that the Omega-6 fatty acids in these oils are the precursors to hormone-like substances in the body called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins, in turn, are involved in the menstrual cycle, ovulation and pregnancy maintenance.

In addition, the study found that women who most closely followed the diet Mediterranean way had higher levels of vitamin B6. One previous study found giving vitamin B to women who were having difficulty getting pregnant increased their chances of conception.

Still, diet is part of a person's overall lifestyle and the study could not account for all of the factors that could clarify the connection between the natural ways to Increase fertility Mediterranean diet and pregnancy rates

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