Public Health Nutrition

Research Article

Secular trends in diet among elderly Swedes – cohort comparisons over three decades

G Eibena1 c1, CS Anderssona1a2, E Rothenberga2a3, V Sundha2, B Steena2 and L Lissnera1a4

a1 Department of Primary Health Care, Sahlgrenska Academy at Göteborg University, Box 454, SE-405 30 Göteborg, Sweden

a2 Department of Geriatric Medicine, Sahlgrenska Academy at Göteborg University, Göteborg, Sweden

a3 Department for Clinical Nutrition, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg, Sweden

a4 Nordic School of Public Health, Göteborg, Sweden


Objective: The purpose of this study was to compare dietary practices among different birth cohorts of 70-year-old Swedes, who were examined between 1971 and 2000.

Setting: Göteborg, Sweden.

Design: Four population-based samples of 1360 70-year-olds, born in 1901, 1911, 1922 and 1930, have undergone health examinations and dietary assessments over a period of almost three decades. One-hour diet history (DH) interviews were conducted in 1971, 1981, 1992 and 2000 with a total of 758 women and 602 women. The formats and contents of the dietary examinations were similar over the years. Statistical analysis of linear trends was conducted, using year of examination as the independent variable, to detect secular trends in food and nutrient intakes across cohorts.

Results: At the 2000 examination, the majority of 70-year-olds consumed nutritionally adequate diets. Later-born cohorts consumed more yoghurt, breakfast cereals, fruit, vegetables, chicken, rice and pasta than earlier-born cohorts. Consumption of low-fat spread and milk also increased, along with that of wine, light beer and candy. In contrast, potatoes, cakes and sugar were consumed less in 2000 than in 1971. The ratio of reported energy intake to estimated basal metabolic rate did not show any systematic trend over time in women, but showed a significant upward trend in men.

Conclusions: The diet history method has captured changes in food selections in the elderly without changing in general format over three decades. Dietary quality has improved in a number of ways, and these findings in the elderly are consistent with national food consumption trends in the general population.

(Received July 17 2003)

(Accepted November 13 2003)


c1 *Corresponding author: Email