Immigrants form vital elements of the economy and broaden cultural diversity in the host country. They promote economic development and social change by integrating within the host culture, often by modifying their lifestyle and food habits. Many immigrants belong to low socio-economic groups and are employed in low-paid jobs with irregular and shift work, and non-social hours, leading to poor diet and lifestyle. The reported risk of such dietrelated diseases as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension in groups such as South Asians and Afro-Caribbeans is much higher than that of Caucasians.

Dietary habits differ considerably amongst immigrants; however, the majority will alter their eating habits by combining parts of their traditional diet with less healthy components of the Western diet. In particular, mixed dietary habits are emerging within younger generations, with soft drinks, crisps, sweets, snacks and convenience foods often replacing fruit, vegetables, legumes and cereals. Age and immigrant generation are the major factors accounting for changes in dietary habits, but income, level of education, dietary laws, religion and food beliefs are also significant. There are several limitations that inhibit an understanding of declining health in immigrant groups, including the reliability of food intake data and the causes of morbidity and mortality (often based on limited and small scale studies). However, until such data is available, dietary advice on nutritional benefits of traditional diets should be focussed on cereals and legume grains, fruit and vegetables.

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