nts. Conversely, opposing tendencies were observed in Austrian students. Assessment of their own eating attitudes as healthy was lower among Japanese students than among Austrian students, even though a higher variety of food intake and more regular consumption of three meals each day were observed in the Japanese students. The rates of Korean and Austrian students who ate lunch or dinner almost every day were lower than the rate for Japanese students. These results are particularly interesting since the problem of irregular meal intake was one of the reasons for establishing the “Food Education Basic Law” in Japan .
Eating breakfast or dinner with friends occurred more often for Korean and Austrian students than for Japanese students, and this habit might be related to the attitude that eating meals together fosters relationships. Mean scores for questions such as “I like to strengthen relationships with other people by eating together” were higher for Korean and Austrian students than for Japanese students (Table 1). A decreased tendency of spending time on relationships has recently been recognized in Japan . In Korea and Austria, meals might serve not only to satisfy appetites but also to enhance social relationships. Among Korean students, a higher rate of eating with friends were found for students living both with their families and in student housing.
Although the rate of students who always ate dinner was relatively high among Japanese students (Table 2), the rate of those who ate dinner with a friend was relatively low (data not shown). Female Japanese students usually spend time each day attending to their friends and maintaining their relationships. Although this does not feel disagreeable when friends do the same for them, the tendency to act for others is increasing in Japan . Therefore, Japanese students might prefer to eat dinner alone in a more carefree atmosphere.
In comparison with Korean and Austrian students, the Japanese students consumed a wider variety of food groups. Notably, the frequency of consuming animal products was higher. Only milk and dairy products, vegetables, fruits, and sweets were eaten more than three to four times per week by more than 50% of Austrian students. Though it makes sense that consumption of seaweed, soybeans, and mushrooms were low among Austrian students because these foods are not common in Austrian cooking, Austrians also reported low levels of meat consumption. Studies of meal patterns of Austrian women reveal that 30% consume a mixed diet containing a large amount of fruits and vegetables, and 50% consume a mixed diet containing less meat than average and a normal volume of other foods . Therefore, our findings of limited intake of animal products among our Austrian sample are reasonable. While many assume that Koreans prefer dishes made using meats and meat products, meat consumption more than three to four times per week was reported by Korean students only about half as frequently as by the Japanese students in our sample.
Of the 36 questionnaire items related to eating attitudes, significant cultural differences were found on 29 items (Table 1). The means of eight items (1, 3, 4, 5, 12, 14, 21, and 27) were higher for Austrian students than for Japanese and Korean students. These items included statements related to healthy eating (1, 3, and 21) and dining attitudes and personal policies about convenience foods (4, 5, 12, 14, and 27). This may show that Austrians have an independent view of self that carries through into their eating behaviors . Further, Austrian students may assume that their eating behaviors, selected according to their own judgment, are correct, that their eating habits are normal, and that they eat a well-balanced diet. However, eating only favorite dishes may lead to an unbalanced diet, and the calorie content of delivery food and precooked dishes from the supermarket is generally high. Because of their independent views and emphasis on self-esteem, it may be that Western people fail to recognize inconsistencies in their self-assessment.
The means of 11 items were lower for Japanese students than for Korean and Austrian students. When Japanese students were compared to Austrian students (or to the combination of Austrian and Korean students), differences greater than one point were observed on items 5, 27, and 32: Japanese students took fewer nutriational supplements, did not solely eat their favorite foods, and tended not to leave food uneaten. The reasons for these habits might be that the food volume of a Japanese meal is typically small, and Japanese individuals might pay more attention to “mottainai” (treating things with due respect). Thus, Japanese individuals rarely leave food uneaten. In addition, Japanese individuals are thought to believe that necessary nutrition comes from the foods themselves, and that eating only one’s favorite foods does not provide sufficient nutrition. Furthermore, selfcriticism among Japanese individuals is common, and they tend to downplay their skills and habits [36,37]. For this reason, Japanese individuals might self-rate their eating attitudes less favorably than Austrian individuals.
Limitations of this study include the use of only one study site in both Korea and Austria, as opposed to four in Japan, and differences in average age and major field of study among the comparison cultures. However, although various types of university (national and private, urban and rural) and plural major fields were included in the Japanese portion of the study, the differences among universities were very small as compared with the differences among cultures.
Physical measurements of the participants, such as height, weight, and quantitative food or nutrient intake, were not collected in the present study. Previously, no significant differences in intake of fish, meat, or eggs have been observed for Japanese and Korean people between the ages of 20 and 29 years . However, there is a possibility that participants did not accurately estimate what and how much they consumed . In addition, the rate of overweight individuals in Western populations is overwhelmingly higher than in Southeast Asian populations . Westerners might make inaccurate judgments about their eating behavior, as evidenced by the finding that 71% of subjects from the EU agree with the statement, “I do not need to make changes to the food I eat, as it is already healthy enough” . Agreement with this statement is thought to stem from the Western cultural view of self-promotion and the maintenance of high selfesteem. In addition, there are some reports and discussions that perceived self-efficacy is strongly related to healthy eating behaviors [7,40,41]. It is possible that unhealthy dietary habits are influenced by cultural selfviews, whereby individuals misinterpret appropriate eating behavior on the basis of their social surroundings.
In conclusion, behaviors that reflect Western cultural views of independence might influence various problematic eating habits. Such habits can lead to obesity and lifestyle-related illness. Conversely, in Asian countries (especially in Japan), self-criticism originating from interdependent self-views might be reflected in negative selfassessments of relatively healthy eating behaviors. In order to reduce the prevalence of obesity and other lifestyle-related diseases, individuals should be provided with tools and guidance to accurately assess their own eating behaviors and to heighten objective judgment capability. Future studies should collect physical measurements of the subjects as well as quantitative data on nutrient intake, so that self-assessments can be compared to objective measures.
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