Public Health Nutrition

Research Article

Disentangling women's responses on complex dietary intake patterns from an Indian cross-sectional survey: a latent class analysis

Sabu S Padmadasa1 c1, José G Diasa2 and Frans J Willekensa3

a1 Division of Social Statistics & Southampton Statistical Sciences Research Institute, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK

a2 Department of Quantitative Methods, Instituto Superior de Ciencias do Trabalho e da Empresa (ISCTE), Lisbon, Portugal

a3 Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute, The Hague, The Netherlands and Population Research Centre, University of Groningen, The Netherlands


Objective To investigate the degree of individual heterogeneity related to complex dietary behaviour and to further examine the associations of different dietary compositions with selected characteristics.

Design Latent class analysis was applied to data from the recent cross-sectional National Family Health Survey that collected information on the intake frequency of selected foods. Different responses regarding intake frequency were condensed into a set of five meaningful latent clusters representing different dietary patterns and these clusters were then labelled based on the reported degree of diet mixing.

Setting Indian states.

Subjects In total, 90 180 women aged 15–49 years.

Results Three clusters were predominantly non-vegetarian and two were vegetarian. A very high or high mixed-diet pattern was observed particularly in the southern and a few north-eastern states. Many women in the very high mixed-diet cluster consumed mostly non-green/leafy vegetables on a daily basis, and fruits and other non-vegetarian diet on a weekly basis. In contrast, those in the low mixed-diet cluster consumed more than three-fifths of the major vegetarian diet ingredients alone on a daily basis. The affluent group that represented the low mixed-diet cluster were primarily vegetarians and those who represented the very high mixed-diet cluster were mostly non-vegetarians. The significant interrelationships of different characteristics highlight not only socio-economic, spatial and cultural disparities related to dietary practices, but also the substantial heterogeneity in diet mixing behaviour.

Conclusions The results of this study confirmed our hypothesis of heterogeneous dietary behaviour of Indian women and yielded useful policy-oriented results which might be difficult to establish otherwise.

(Received August 16 2004)

(Accepted June 17 2005)


c1 *Corresponding author: Email