This study investigated the food consumption patterns of 430 Beijing Chinese adults and assessed the impact on these patterns of the following socio-demographic characteristics: gender, age, educational achievement, and gross household income. Food intake by category, food variety and meal patterns were assessed using a 156-item food frequency questionnaire. It was found that gender and age were the most important factors to influence food consumption patterns. Men consumed more wheat products, red meat and tea, whereas women consumed more vegetables, fruit, nuts, fish, eggs and milk. Women also tended to consume a wider variety of food than did men. Furthermore, it was found that younger and more educated people tended to consume a wider variety of food. Age also had an important influence on the food intake. Younger and generally more educated adults tended to consume foods associated with affluence: meats, soft drinks and beer, while the older population tended to consume more vegetables (women only), milk and tea in their diets. Because education is closely correlated with age in this Beijing Chinese population, it appeared to have little effect on the food intake patterns, after adjusting for age. The older members of this population, who probably have a decreased functional reserve of nutrients, and the less educated, appeared not to be taking advantage of the availability of a wide variety of food, further increasing the risk of nutrient deficiency. On the other hand, the younger and more educated, who tended to consume a wide variety of foods, were more likely to maintain adequate nutritional standards. However, their tendency to consume food associated with affluence, such as meat and beer, may point toward an increased risk of those diseases prevalent in affluent societies, such as obesity, diabeties, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and osteoporosis. Ongoing nutrition surveillance and appropriate nutrition education will be required increasingly for Beijing Chinese and similar communities.