IFIC has been conducting its annual Food & Health Survey since 2006 in an effort to gauge consumer attitudes to food safety, nutrition and health. In its latest survey, it found that about 50 percent of respondents consider themselves to be overweight in 2011, down from 57 percent in 2010. In reality, nearly 70 percent of the population is overweight or obese, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meanwhile, the number of Americans who say their diet is ‘extremely’ or ‘somewhat’ healthful has climbed from 53 percent last year to 62 percent this year and 59 percent reported making dietary changes, compared to 64 percent in 2010. In addition, the proportion of respondents describing their physical activity level as ‘sedentary’ rose from 37 percent last year to 43 percent in 2011.
Director of trends and consumer insights at the IFIC Foundation Carrie Dooher said: “This contradiction may indicate that Americans are being less hard on themselves and less critical of their health and well-being than in past years, despite an environment in which improved health and wellness is increasingly discussed from the media to government to the dinner table.”
Sodium concern stable
The survey also found that consumer attitudes toward sodium remained stable, despite the fact that sodium has received significant attention in the past year, via the media, in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans released in January, from food manufacturers, and in a number of other sodium reduction initiatives. The same proportion (53 percent) of Americans said they were concerned about their sodium intake in 2011 as in 2010. Also consistent with last year’s results, about half of respondents said they were interested in learning more about sodium, and six in ten said they regularly buy low-sodium or reduced sodium foods.
Commenting on the survey’s suggestion that fewer consumers are concerned about their diet and weight in 2011, Dooher said: “This would be consistent with current trends toward small indulgences and a shift in perception about food in which consumers are seeking to be empowered rather than educated about food, health and food safety practices.”
IFIC also found that consumer comprehension of calories is very low, with only nine percent able to accurately estimate how many calories they should consume in a day, and almost half were unable to estimate their own energy expenditure, although 60 percent offered inaccurate estimates. These figures were similar to last year’s, IFIC said.