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Does the Location of Your Home Affect Your Diet?

  • May 23, 2011
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The human race evolved millions of years ago in Africa, as a homogenous group of people who shared a lifestyle and diet. Since then, we have spread throughout the globe, adapted to wildly different environments, and have access to very different resources. As a result, people in some parts of the world live and eat very differently from those in other parts. Even within nations, and within local communities, people's diets can be vastly different from each other. How and why are people's diets affected by where they live?

On a global level, people seem to eat very differently from each other, and that is evident in their physique and in the illnesses they suffer from. For example, a 'supersize' takeaway diet has become standard for some in the US, and as a result their obesity rates are higher than anywhere else in the world. The Japanese diet is considered to be one of the healthiest in the world – based on rice, vegetables and fish. However, that is mostly luck of the draw – they are the foods that have historically been easily available there. The European diet includes more saturated fat in the form of cheese and processed meat, as they were the only form of protein many of our ancestors could access.

Today, what we eat is not just about what food we have available, but where we grow up, what social group we belong to, and the choices we make. In the UK, diet is hugely influenced by income. That means that the diets of people in one small area might be vastly different to the diets of others just a few streets away. In some areas, people have difficulty accessing fresh food. Supermarkets tend to be out of town, and so inaccessible to anyone without a car, leaving people in poorer, inner city areas with only small convenience stores to buy food from. These stores tend to have a very limited choice of food, and it is usually tinned, frozen or processed.

As a result, takeaways fill the gap for many people. In wealthier areas, people tend to be able to shop where they like, and will have access to a wide range of shops selling all kinds of food. They are able, for example, to pay premium prices for organic vegetables. They may see cheap takeaways as unacceptable. Over time, these food choices that are initially born of circumstance, become culturally ingrained, so that even if they are able to access different foods, people choose to continue eating the foods they are used to. 

In conclusion, the differences in diet that your home's location can cause can be very vast. For example, living in a house in Oxford could cause you to have an incredibly different diet to somewhere more northern such as Manchester, or even a house in London where takeaways are in great abundance and highly convenient.

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