Differences in food intake and disparity in obesity rates between adult Jews and Bedouins in Southern Israel

Drora Fraser, Natalya Bilenko, Hillel Vardy, Kathleene Abu-Saad, Iris Shai, Heijar Abu-Shareb, Danit R. Shahar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objective: The goal of this study was to compare eating patterns of Jews and Muslim Bedouins and investigate possible dietary causes for discrepancy in obesity rates. Methods: We pooled two surveys that included data from 793 Jews and 169 Bedouins aged 35-64 years recruited from 1998 through 2003 in southern Israel. For the Jewish sample, we used a proportional geographic cluster random sample of persons aged ≥ 35 years. For the Bedouins, a convenience sample of 519 participants was used. Participants were interviewed at home, using modified 24-hour food questionnaires with additional questions regarding health and eating habits. Results: The Jewish group was older and better educated than were the Bedouins. The Bedouins had a higher age-adjusted body mass index than did the Jews (P=.03), and the rate of obesity was higher among Bedouins than Jews (27.9% vs 20.0%, respectively). Compared to Jewish men, Bedouin men reported lower intake of fat, cholesterol, total saturated fat, and protein and fat as a percentage of total energy, but they reported higher intake of carbohydrates, fiber, and carbohydrates as a percentage of total energy. Bedouin women reported lower intake of total saturated fat, percentage of protein and fat, and higher intake of carbohydrates and fiber than did Jewish women. Conclusion: The Bedouin population is adapting Western eating patterns that appear to be associated with increased obesity. To address this problem, culturally sensitive intervention programs will have to be developed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-18
Number of pages6
JournalEthnicity and Disease
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2008


  • Bedouins
  • Dietary intake
  • Jews
  • Lifestyle
  • Obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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