Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 107–116 | Cite as

Gender differences in food choice: The contribution of health beliefs and dieting

  • Jane Wardle
  • Anne M. Haase
  • Andrew Steptoe
  • Maream Nillapun
  • Kiriboon Jonwutiwes
  • France Bellisie

Abstract

Background: Gender differences in health behaviors have been reported in many studies but causal mechanisms have been neglected.Purpose and Methods: This study examines 4 food choice behaviors in a large sample of young adults from 23 countries and tests 2 possible explanatory mechanisms for the gender differences—women’s greater likelihood of dieting and women’s greater beliefs in the importance of healthy diets.Results: Women were more likely than men to report avoiding high-fat foods, eating fruit and fiber, and limiting salt (to a lesser extent) in almost all of the 23 countries. They were also more likely to be dieting and attached greater importance to healthy eating. Dieting status explained around 22% of the gender difference in fat choices, 23% of fiber choices, and 7% of fruit, but none of the gender difference in salt. Health beliefs explained around 40% of the differences in each of the dietary behaviors and together they explained almost 50%. Gender differences in food choices therefore appear to be partly attributable to women’s greater weight control involvement and partly to their stronger belifs in healthy eating.Conclusions: Further research is needed to understand the additional factors that could promote men’s participation in simple healthy eating practices.

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Copyright information

© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jane Wardle
    • 1
  • Anne M. Haase
    • 1
  • Andrew Steptoe
    • 1
  • Maream Nillapun
    • 2
  • Kiriboon Jonwutiwes
    • 2
  • France Bellisie
    • 3
  1. 1.Cancer Research UK. Health Behavior Unit, Dept. of Epidemiology & Public HealthUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Silpakorn UniversityThailand
  3. 3.INSERMParisFrance

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