Data from IFIC’s annual survey, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, also indicated that awareness of trans-fats increased between 2006 and 2010, from 81 to 90%, while omega-3 awareness has stayed constant at around 74%.
On the flip side, no increase in efforts to consume more omega-3s has been observed in the 1,000-plus consumers participating in the survey.
“Having five years of consumer research offers invaluable insights on how the communication of dietary guidance impacts consumers,” said Marianne Smith Edge, MS, RD, LD, FADA, Senior Vice President, Nutrition & Food Safety at the IFIC Foundation and co-author of the article.
“And, we have not stopped at five years. The IFIC Foundation remains committed to continuing to field this Survey to gain and share insights on consumers’ knowledge and behaviors. Further, this helps focus consumer communication efforts on areas where they are needed most.”
Calories and weight gain
However, many health and nutrition messages are not being heard, with the survey also revealing that a staggering 70% of consumers could not correctly identify that “calories in general are what causes weight gain”.
The IFIC survey also revealed that “Americans consistently reported that they actively used food and beverage packaging label information when deciding whether to purchase or consume food and beverages”. The top source was the Nutrition Facts panel (68% in 2010), followed by expiration date (66% in 2010).
Interestingly, brand names are increasingly being used to influence purchases, with 50% of consumers saying this influenced their purchase and consumption habits in 2010, up from 38% in 2006.
“During the 5 years of the survey, there has been an explosion in access to technology and information, including food, nutrition, and health counsel, yet this has not appeared to facilitate greater consumer understanding or action,” wrote the authors.
“These data raise the question of whether traditional nutrition communications may have contributed to consumer confusion and perhaps, the lack of motivation expressed by many Americans.”
“Some nutrition and health messages are indeed being heard and Americans desire to engage in healthful behaviors. Imparting knowledge and direction through education may foster short-term action or interest, but current approaches have not facilitated established, long-term healthful habits.”
Source: Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.10.009
“Is it Time to Rethink Nutrition Communications? A 5-Year Retrospective of Americans' Attitude toward Food, Nutrition, and Health”
Authors: B.A. Hornick, N.M. Childs, M. Smith Edge, W. Reinhardt Kapsak, C. Dooher, C. White