OBJECTIVE: To describe the diversity in dietary patterns existing across centres/regions participating in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). DESIGN AND SETTING: Single 24-hour dietary recall measurements were obtained by means of standardised face-to-face interviews using the EPIC-SOFT software. These have been used to present a graphic multi-dimensional comparison of the adjusted mean consumption of 22 food groups. SUBJECTS: In total, 35 955 men and women, aged 35-74 years, participating in the EPIC nested calibration study. RESULTS: Although wide differences were observed across centres, the countries participating in EPIC are characterised by specific dietary patterns. Overall, Italy and Greece have a dietary pattern characterised by plant foods (except potatoes) and a lower consumption of animal and processed foods, compared with the other EPIC countries. France and particularly Spain have more heterogeneous dietary patterns, with a relatively high consumption of both plant foods and animal products. Apart from characteristics specific to vegetarian groups, the UK 'health-conscious' group shares with the UK general population a relatively high consumption of tea, sauces, cakes, soft drinks (women), margarine and butter. In contrast, the diet in the Nordic countries, The Netherlands, Germany and the UK general population is relatively high in potatoes and animal, processed and sweetened/refined foods, with proportions varying across countries/centres. In these countries, consumption of vegetables and fruit is similar to, or below, the overall EPIC means, and is low for legumes and vegetable oils. Overall, dietary patterns were similar for men and women, although there were large gender differences for certain food groups. CONCLUSIONS: There are considerable differences in food group consumption and dietary patterns among the EPIC study populations. This large heterogeneity should be an advantage when investigating the relationship between diet and cancer and formulating new aetiological hypotheses related to dietary patterns and disease.
OBJECTIVE: To describe the average consumption of carbohydrate-providing food groups among study centres of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). METHODS: Of the 27 redefined EPIC study centres, 19 contributed subjects of both genders and eight centres female participants only (men, women, after exclusion of subjects under 35 and over 74 years of age from the original 36 900 total). Dietary data were obtained using the 24-hour recall methodology using the EPIC-SOFT software. The major sources of dietary carbohydrate were identified, and 16 food groups were examined. RESULTS: The 10 food groups contributing most carbohydrate were bread; fruit; milk and milk products; sweet buns, cakes and pies; potato; sugar and jam; pasta and rice; vegetables and legumes; crispbread; and fruit and vegetable juices. Consumption of fruits as well as vegetables and legumes was higher in southern compared with northern centres, while soft drinks consumption was higher in the north. Italian centres had high pasta and rice consumption, but breakfast cereal, potato, and sweet buns, cakes and pies were higher in northern centres. In Sweden, lower bread consumption was balanced with a higher consumption of crispbread, and with sweet buns, cakes and pies. Overall, men consumed higher amounts of vegetables and legumes, bread, soft drinks, potatoes, pasta and rice, breakfast cereal and sugar and jam than women, but fruit consumption appeared more frequent in women. CONCLUSION: The study supports the established idea that carbohydrate-rich foods chosen in northern Europe are different from those in the Mediterranean region. When comparing and interpreting diet-disease relationships across populations, researchers need to consider all types of foods.