Using cluster analysis to examine dietary patterns: Nutrient intakes, gender, and weight status differ across food pattern clusters

A. K.Elisabet Wirfält, Robert W. Jeffery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

145 Scopus citations


Objective: This study explored the usefulness of cluster analysis in identifying food choice patterns of three groups of adults in relation to their energy intake. Design: Food frequency data were converted to percentage of total energy from 38 food groups and entered into a cluster analysis procedure. Subjects in the emerging food group patterns were compared in terms of weight status, demographics, and the nutrition composition of their usual diet. Setting: Data were collected as part of three studies in two US metropolitan areas using identical protocols. Participants were university employees (103 women and 99 men) who volunteered for a reliability study of health behavior questionnaires and moderately obese volunteers (223 women and 101 men) to two weight-loss studies who were recruited by newspaper advertisements. Statistical analysis performed: Subjects were clustered according to food energy sources using the FASTCLUS procedure in the Statistical Analysis System. One-way analysis of variance and χ2 analysis were then performed to compare the weight status, nutrient intakes, and demographics of the food patterns. Results: Six food pattern clusters were identified. Subjects in the two clusters associated with high consumption of pastry and meat had significantly higher fat intakes (P=.0001). Subjects in two other clusters, those associated with high intake of skim milk and a broad distribution of energy sources had significantly higher micronutrient levels (P=.0001). Body mass index and the distribution of gender were also significantly different across clusters. Conclusions: The success of cluster analysis in identifying dietary exposure categories with unique demographic and nutritional correlates suggests that the approach may be useful in epidemiologic studies that examine conditions such as obesity, and in the design of nutrition interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-279
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the American Dietetic Association
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1997

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute grant HL41332 and National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive Kidney Diseases grant DK42201 to Robert W. Jeffery and by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute grant HL 41330 to Dr Rena Wing, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pa.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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