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Meeting challenges related to the dietary assessment of ethnic minority populations




Migrants from the Indian subcontinent comprise the largest minority group in the UK. With the process of migration come alterations in lifestyle and eating habits. The present study aimed to disseminate the valuable information, experiences and challenges faced by researchers who conduct studies with ethnic minority groups in the area of diet and nutritional surveys, with an emphasis on migrant South Asians.


The findings reported are the result of research carried out during 2008–2012, involving 1100 face-to-face dietary recalls conducted in the UK among South Asian children (aged 1.5–11 years; n = 300) and adults (≥30 years; n = 100).


Factors to consider when planning and carrying out diet and nutrition survey studies among migrant South Asians were identified and include the employment of culture-specific tools, visual aid reinforcement and the involvement of key community members and translators to facilitate recruitment and data collection. One of the best practices found when working with minority groups was the use of incentives and tangible benefits to reward study participants. It was also found that constant communication and follow-up of the study participants improved the quality of the data and the likelihood of maintaining links with community members for future studies.


From the results of in-house studies and a revision of practices reported in earlier literature, two 24-h face-to-face dietary recalls are recommended as the optimal method for the dietary assessment of migrant South Asians. To complement this assessment, ethnic-specific food frequency questionnaires such as that developed and successfully implemented among South Asians in the present study must be employed.