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Discovery and characterisation of dietary patterns in two Nordic countries

Using non-supervised and supervised multivariate statistical techniques to analyse dietary survey data

image of Discovery and characterisation of dietary patterns in two Nordic countries

This Nordic study encompasses multivariate data analysis (MDA) of preschool Danish as well as pre- and elementary school Swedish consumers. Contrary to other counterparts the study incorporates two separate MDA varieties - Pattern discovery (PD) and predictive modelling (PM). PD, i.e. hierarchical cluster analysis (HCA) and factor analysis (using PCA), helped identifying distinct consumer aggregations and relationships across food groups, respectively, whereas PM enabled the disclosure of deeply entrenched associations. 17 clusters - here defined as dietary prototypes - were identified by means of HCA in the entire bi-national data set. These prototypes underwent further processing, which disclosed several intriguing consumption data relationships: Striking disparity between consumption patterns of Danish and Swedish preschool children was unveiled and further dissected by PM. Two prudent and mutually similar dietary prototypes appeared among each of two Swedish elementary school children data subsets. Dietary prototypes rich in sweetened soft beverages appeared among Danish and Swedish children alike. The results suggest prototype-specific risk assessment and study design.

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Results

Compliant with most studies of selected parts of the data material, e.g. defined by age or nation, an initial inspection of the unabridged Swedish dietary survey data encompassed top-down Cluster Analysis by means of the OMB-DHC algorithm, with each food group intake appearing as a weight fraction (percent) of the total intake. This provided a multibranching display, which did not halt at any pre-defined hierarchical level, but proceeded until singlet entities were attained. The upper part of the accordingly derived dendrogram chart – built on the entire Swedish data set – discloses five main aggregations, also referred to as dietary prototypes in this report, with notable dissimilarity in size and complexity across them (Figure 1). As viewed from the highest hierarchical stage, cluster RA I (Riksmaten – barn 2003, All subjects, subpopulation I), also labelled the Cereals cluster, is markedly small and relatively homogeneous. Actually, it is also most remotely situated, in relation to the remaining data (note edge lengths at the top level of Figure 1). The next assembly in line – RA II (the Milk cluster) – is largest of all and also features the highest heterogeneity, as revealed by many downstream segregation points. Aggregation RA III is also large, but slightly less scattered; the remaining two clusters – RA IV and RA V – show more intermediate properties with respect to size and diversion (Figure 1). The entire set of alternate cluster designations, as dictated by salient food group(s) (or other relevant pattern), appear as follows (RA I through RA V): i) Cereals, ii) Milk (low fat), iii) Traditional, iv) Soft beverages (sweetened)/Buns & cakes and v) Varied/Water (Figure 1 and Table 1). For clarity, outstanding food groups of each such top-level aggregation were depicted as bar charts, which can be perceived as concise graphical dietary prototypes (Figure 2). Notably, Cereals and Milk are pertinent features of clusters RA I and RA II, respectively. Cluster RA III shows a rather even distribution across many food groups, but is particularly rich in Fruits, Juice, Milk (low-fat), Soft drinks (light), Rice, Meat & poultry and Desserts. We have thus chosen to tentatively label this prototype Traditional. Conversely, Figure 2 highlights Soft drinks (sweetened) as a major property of prototype RA IV, but Buns & cakes as well as Snacks are additional salient features of this aggregation (Table 1). Clearly, Milk (RA II) and Traditional (RA III) dietary prototypes stand out as the two largest populations within the ensemble. Seemingly, the Cereals (RA I) prototype is mostly built of preschool children, whereas those of Soft beverages (sweetened)/Buns & cakes (RA IV) and Varied/Water (RA V) are largely restricted to elementary school (8– or 11 years of age) consumer categories (Figure 3A and B).

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