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OBJECTIVE: Despite differences in obesity and ill health between urban and rural areas in the UK being well documented, very little is known about differences in dietary patterns across these areas. The present study aimed to examine whether urban/rural status is associated with dietary patterns in a population-based UK cohort study of children.
DESIGN: Dietary patterns were obtained using principal components analysis and cluster analysis of 3 d diet records collected from children at 10 years of age. Rurality was obtained from the 2001 UK Census urban/rural indicator at the time of dietary assessment. General linear models were used to examine the relationship between rurality and dietary pattern scores from principal components analysis; multinomial logistic regression was used to assess the association between rurality and dietary clusters.
SETTING: The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), South West England.
SUBJECTS: Children (n 5677) aged 10 years (2817 boys and 2860 girls).
RESULTS: After adjustment, increases in rurality were associated with increased scores on the 'health awareness' dietary pattern (β=0·35; 95 % CI 0·14, 0·56; P<0·001 for the most rural compared with the most urban group) and lower scores on the 'packed lunch/snack' dietary pattern (β=-0·39; 95 % CI -0·59, -0·19; P<0·001 for the most rural compared with the most urban group). The odds ratio for participants being in the 'healthy' compared with the 'processed' dietary cluster for the most rural areas was 1·61 (95 % CI 1·05, 2·49; P=0·02) compared with those in the most urban areas.
CONCLUSIONS: There is evidence to suggest that differences exist in dietary patterns between rural and urban areas. Similar results were found using two different methods of dietary pattern analysis, showing that children residing in rural households were more likely to consume healthier diets than those in urban households.