Characteristics of the community-level diet of Aboriginal people in remote northern Australia.
OBJECTIVE: To describe the nutritional quality of community-level diets in remote northern Australian communities.
DESIGN: A multisite 12-month assessment (July 2010 to June 2011) of community-level diet in three remote Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, linking data from food outlets and food services to the Australian Food and Nutrient Database.
OUTCOMES MEASURES: Contribution of food groups to total food expenditure; macronutrient contribution to energy and nutrient density relative to requirements; and food sources of key nutrients.
RESULTS: One-quarter (24.8%; SD, 1.4%) of total food expenditure was on non-alcoholic beverages; 15.6% (SD, 1.2%) was on sugar-sweetened drinks. 2.2% (SD, 0.2%) was spent on fruit and 5.4% (SD, 0.4%) on vegetables. Sugars contributed 25.7%–34.3% of dietary energy, 71% of which was table sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages. Dietary protein contributed 12.5%–14.1% of energy, lower than the recommended 15%–25% optimum. Furthermore, white bread was a major source of energy and most nutrients in all three communities.
CONCLUSION: Very poor dietary quality continues to be a characteristic of remote Aboriginal community nutrition profiles since the earliest studies almost three decades ago. Significant proportions of key nutrients are provided from poor-quality nutrient-fortified processed foods. Further evidence regarding the impact of the cost of food on food purchasing in this context is urgently needed and should include cost–benefit analysis of improved dietary intake on health outcomes.