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Characterization of street food consumption in palermo: possible effects on health

Silvio Buscemi1*, Annamaria Barile1, Vincenza Maniaci1, John A Batsis23, Alessandro Mattina1 and Salvatore Verga1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicina Interna e Specialistica (DIMIS), Faculty of Medicine University of Palermo (Italy) - Policlinico "P.Giaccone", via del vespro, 129 - I-90127 Palermo, Italy

2 Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, USA

3 Section of General Internal Medicine, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire, USA

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Nutrition Journal 2011, 10:119  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-10-119

Published: 28 October 2011



Street Food (SF) consists of out-of-home food consumption and has old, historical roots with complex social-economic and cultural implications. Despite the emergence of modern fast food, traditional SF persists worldwide, but the relationship of SF consumption with overall health, well-being, and obesity is unknown.


This is an observational, cross-sectional study. The study was performed in Palermo, the largest town of Sicily, Italy. Two groups were identified: consumers of SF (n = 687) and conventional restaurant food (RES) consumers (n = 315). Study subjects answered a questionnaire concerning their health conditions, nutritional preferences, frequency of consumption of SF and a score relative to SF consumption ranging from 0 to 20 was calculated.


Body mass index (BMI, kg/m2) was significantly and independently correlated with the score of street food consumption (r = 0,103; p < 0.002). The prevalence of different diseases, including hypertension and type 2 diabetes, and the use of medications did not differ between the two groups. Milza (a sandwich stuffed with thin slice of bovine spleen and lung) consumers had a significantly higher prevalence of hypertension (12.2% vs 6.2% in non consumers; p < 0.005) and in this subgroup the use of anti-hypertensive drugs was inversely correlated with the frequency of milza consumption (r = 0.11; P = 0.010).


This study suggests that SF consumption in Palermo is associated with a higher BMI and higher prevalence of hypertension in milza consumers. Further studies should evaluate whether frequent SF consumers have unfavourable metabolic and cardiovascular profile.