Study finds link between takeout food, education

We all know that if we want to be healthy eaters, we should ditch fast food and other restaurant fare and prepare our own meals at home. But that's easier said than done. Considering that takeout food is too tempting for many people to pass up, it's worth asking whether all takeout fare is created equal.

It turns out that ordering to go means some meals are more equal than others.

In general, people with only a high school education were less likely to get takeout in the previous day than people who were college graduates. However, the takeout food ordered by the less-educated cohort was much less healthy than the meals ordered by their better-educated counterparts, according to a study published in the October issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Researchers in Australia used government survey data from 7,319 adults and grouped their responses according to their level of education. They wanted to see whether nutritional choices could explain why people from lower-income brackets are more likely to have chronic diseases.

In Australia, the least-educated diners were more than 2.5 times as likely to make "less healthy" choices compared to people with more education. For instance, they were about twice as likely to buy potato chips, hamburgers and full-calorie soda. They were also four times less likely to order fruit and three times less likely to order salads.

The researchers speculated that food cost was a bigger factor for high-school-educated eaters than for diners with college degrees.

The study authors also wondered whether consumers with less education put more emphasis on tastiness. The college-educated eaters might share the same craving for a burger with fries, but perhaps they were more disciplined about balancing that with concerns about nutrition and weight gain, the researchers said.