BACKGROUND: Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) are the leading causes of death for men and women in low-and-middle income countries (LMIC). The nutrition transition to diets high in salt, fat and sugar and low in fruit and vegetables, in parallel with increasing prevalence of diet-related CVD risk factors in LMICs, identifies the need for urgent action to reverse this trend. To aid identification of the most effective interventions it is crucial to understand whether there are sex differences in dietary behaviours related to CVD risk.
METHODS: From a dataset of 46 nationally representative surveys, we included data from seven countries that had recorded the same dietary behaviour measurements in adults; Bhutan, Eswatini, Georgia, Guyana, Kenya, Nepal and St Vincent and the Grenadines (2013-2017). Three dietary behaviours were investigated: positive salt use behaviour (SUB), meeting fruit and vegetable (F&V) recommendations and use of vegetable oil rather than animal fats in cooking. Generalized linear models were used to investigate the association between dietary behaviours and waist circumference (WC) and undiagnosed and diagnosed hypertension and diabetes. Interaction terms between sex and dietary behaviour were added to test for sex differences.
RESULTS: Twenty-four thousand three hundred thirty-two participants were included. More females than males reported positive SUB (31.3 vs. 27.2% p-value < 0.001), yet less met F&V recommendations (13.2 vs. 14.8%, p-value< 0.05). The prevalence of reporting all three dietary behaviours in a positive manner was 2.7%, varying by country, but not sex. Poor SUB was associated with a higher prevalence of undiagnosed hypertension for females (13.1% vs. 9.9%, p-value = 0.04), and a higher prevalence of undiagnosed diabetes for males (2.4% vs. 1.5%, p-value = 0.02). Meeting F&V recommendations was associated with a higher prevalence of high WC (24.4% vs 22.6%, p-value = 0.01), but was not associated with undiagnosed or diagnosed hypertension or diabetes.
CONCLUSION: Interventions to increase F&V intake and positive SUBs in the included countries are urgently needed. Dietary behaviours were not notably different between sexes. However, our findings were limited by the small proportion of the population reporting positive dietary behaviours, and further research is required to understand whether associations with CVD risk factors and interactions by sex would change as the prevalence of positive behaviours increases.