Nutritional Status of Korean Americans: Implications for Cancer Risk

Katherine K. Kim

RuthAnn Brintnall

nutrition, minority, Korean American
ONF 2000, 27(10), 1573-1583. DOI:

Purpose/Objectives: To examine nutrient intake of Korean Americans, especially those foods and supple­ments implicated in cancer.

Design: Cross-sectional survey and descriptive analysis.

Setting: Chicago, IL.

Sample: 103 Korean Americans who were between 40 and 69 years of age.

Methods: An instrument, culturally and linguistically adapted from the Health Habits and History Question­naire, was administered to assess nutrient intake from food and vitamin and mineral supplements. BIiinguai in­terviewers collected data at respondents' homes.

Findings: Relative to their diet in Korea, more than one-third of the respondents reported an increase in the consumption of beef, dairy products, coffee, soda, and bread, as well as a decrease in the intake of fish and rice and other grains. Compared to the general U.S. population included in the National Health Inter­view Survey (NHIS), Korean Americans had a greater intake of carbohydrates and vitamins A and C and lower intake of total fat, cholesterol, and saturated fat. Moreover, the percentages of calories were higher from carbohydrates and lower from fat, sweets, and alcohol for Korean Americans than those reported by NHIS respondents. Gender, education, and marital sta­tus were significantly associated with nutrient intake. The use of daily vitamin and calcium supplements was similar between respondents and those from NHIS.

Conclusions: At their stage of cultural adaptation, the incorporation of a larger quantity of Western food Items did not make for a less healthy dietary pattern among respondents. Data showed that Korean Americans con­tinued to consume diets more consistent with Korean than with American food patterns, In as much as greater than 60% of their calories came from carbohydrates and about 16% of calories from fat. As a group, respondents met the recommended dietary guidelines for most nutri­ents, except for dietary fiber and calcium. 

Implications for Nursing Practice: Variation in dietary intake by age, culture, gender, and years in the United States is well accepted. Effective cancer prevention and initiatives for dietary reform call for the incorpora­tion of available research findings and considerable attention to data gaps regarding Korean Americans and other Asian Americans and Pacific Islander popu­lations. Culturally competent, community-based pro­grams should include the reinforcement of positive tra­ditional dietary habits, encourage the adaptation of healthy Western food items, as well as assist minority populations in developing strategies that will effectively correct likely deficiencies in diet. 


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