The aim of this study was to describe the variation of soy product intake in 10 European countries by using a standardised reference dietary method. A subsidiary aim was to characterise the pattern of soy consumption among a sub-group of participants with a habitual health-conscious lifestyle (HHL), i.e. non-meat eaters who are fish eaters, vegetarians and vegans.
A 24-hour dietary recall interview (24-HDR) was conducted among a sample (5–12%) of all cohorts (n = 36 900) in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). Study participants totalled 35 955 after exclusion of subjects younger than 35 or older than 74 years of age. Soy products were subdivided into seven sub-groups by similarity. Distribution of consumption and crude and adjusted means of intake were computed per soy product group across countries. Intake of soy products was also investigated among participants with an HHL.
In total, 195 men and 486 women reported consuming soy products in the 24-HDR interview. Although soy product intake was generally low across all countries, the highest intake level was observed in the UK, due to over-sampling of a large number of participants with an HHL. The most frequently consumed soy foods were dairy substitutes in the UK and France and beans and sprouts among mid-European countries. For both genders, the sub-group of soy dairy substitutes was consumed in the highest quantities (1.2 g day−1 for men; 1.9 g day−1 for women). Participants with an HHL differed substantially from others with regard to demographic, anthropometric and nutritional factors. They consumed higher quantities of almost all soy product groups.
Consumption of soy products is low in centres in Western Europe. Soy dairy substitutes are most frequently consumed. Participants with an HHL form a distinct sub-group with higher consumptions of fruit, vegetables, legumes, cereals and soy products compared with the other participants.