Public Health Nutrition

Research paper

Educational differences in the diet of Finnish adults and the associations between education and the determinants and facilitators of dietary fat quality

Marja-Leena Ovaskainena1 c1, Merja Paturia1, Heli Tapanainena1 and Kennet Haralda2

a1 Nutrition Unit, National Institute for Health and Welfare, PO Box 30, FI-00271, Helsinki, Finland

a2 Chronic Disease Epidemiology and Prevention Unit, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland


Objective The aim of the study is to elucidate differences in adults’ diet by education, and to analyse the associations between dietary facilitators, education and dietary fat quality.

Design In all, one-third of subjects from the national FINRISK health survey were invited to participate in the FINDIET 2007 Survey. A 48 h dietary interview was used for dietary data and personal background data were collected by the health survey questionnaire.

Setting Representative sample from five regions in Finland in spring 2007.

Subjects A total of 1576 adults, participation rate 60 %.

Results Oil used in cooking differed by education. Instead perception of cardiovascular risk, or the following of a cholesterol-lowering diet, were equal across all educational categories. The diet of men with low education contained less protein and carbohydrates, more fat and more SFA and MUFA than that of highly educated men. The diet of women with low education contained less PUFA, vitamin C and vitamin E than in the highly educated category. High education remained a significant determinant for the lower intake of SFA in men, and for the higher intake of PUFA in women, after adjusting for the determinants and facilitators of dietary behaviour and age. The lower intake of SFA was also associated with following a cholesterol-lowering diet in both genders. In addition to education, the intake of unsaturated fatty acids was determined by the oil used in cooking by women, and by frequent lunches served by caterers for men.

Conclusions In dietary behaviour, awareness and reporting of cholesterol-lowering diet seem to indicate a tendency to control the intake of saturated fat. Health messages are likely to enhance tools for increasing the intake of PUFA, in addition to reducing the intake of SFA.

(Received July 20 2009)

(Accepted March 15 2010)


c1 Corresponding author: Email