Asian Migrants’ Changing Diets

An analysis of New Zealand’s 2008/09 Adult National Nutrition survey has shown that Asian migrants are more likely to adopt Western diets the longer they live abroad.

AsianScientist (Jun 30, 2014) – A study published in the journal Public Health Nutrition has found that the longer Asians live in New Zealand, the more likely they are to change their diet. This change in dietary habits was more pronounced for South Asians in contrast to East and South East Asians (ESEA).

About ten percent of participants in New Zealand’s 2008/09 Adult National Nutrition survey identified with “Asian ethnicity” and this was comparable to the percentage in the New Zealand population. The majority of these people were migrants who had lived in New Zealand for less than ten years.

They were divided into sub-groups; South Asians, (people who identified as Indian, Bangladeshi, Nepalese, Pakistani, Fiji Indian, Afghani and Sri Lankan); or East and South East Asian (people who identified as Chinese, Malaysian, Taiwanese, Filipino, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Burmese, Indonesian, Thai, Japanese, Korean and Tibetan). New Zealand European and ‘Others’ (NZEO) included all other ethnicities such as Latin American and African.

The analysis for Asian participants was done by Dr. Sherly Parackal from the University of Auckland’s School of Population Health, in collaboration with researchers Dr. Claire Smith and Associate Professor Winsome Parnell, from the Department of Human Nutrition at the University of Otago.

“A different dietary profile was evident for the Asian sub-groups with higher percent energy from carbohydrate than NZEO, due to their predominantly carbohydrate based diets,” Dr. Parackal said.

“A unique aspect of the South Asian sub-group was that in contrast to ESEA, they reported consuming lower amounts of meat, poultry and processed meats than NZEO. It followed that South Asians also had lower intakes of fat, protein (among females), and saturated fats and cholesterol (among males).

“Vitamins and minerals such as retinol, niacin, vitamin B12 and zinc were also lower among South Asian females. Given the high percentage of South Asians reporting that they never eat red meat or chicken, it is not surprising that biochemical indices of iron status were lower for this group,” she said.

Interestingly, the study also revealed that there were significant differences according to how long the person had been living in New Zealand, particularly for South Asian males.

“The results of this study show that dietary habits, nutrient intakes, blood indices and body size differ significantly between Asian Subgroups and emphasises the need to acknowledge these differences in future diet and disease-related research,” Dr. Parackal said.

“Future national surveys should include an adequate sample of Asian sub-groups so that researchers can draw comparisons and make recommendations for the public health status of these groups.”

The article can be found at: Parackal et al. (2014) A profile of New Zealand ‘Asian’ participants of the 2008/09 Adult National Nutrition Survey: focus on dietary habits, nutrient intakes and health outcomes.


Source: University of Auckland; Photo: Catriona Ward/Flickr/CC.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

Asian Scientist Magazine is an award-winning science and technology magazine that highlights R&D news stories from Asia to a global audience. The magazine is published by Singapore-headquartered Wildtype Media Group.

Related Stories from Asian Scientist