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


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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Correspondence to Jane Wardle Ph.D..

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This research was supported by Cancer Research UK.

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Wardle, J., Haase, A.M., Steptoe, A. et al. Gender differences in food choice: The contribution of health beliefs and dieting. ann. behav. med. 27, 107–116 (2004).

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  • Gender Difference
  • Eating Disorder
  • Healthy Eating
  • Behavioral Medicine
  • Food Choice