Weight loss desire prompts Americans to change diet

By Philippa Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Percent, Nutrition

Most Americans decide to change their diet because they want to
lose weight, according to a report by the International Food
Information Council (IFIC).

The survey looked at how consumer attitudes towards food had changed in the last 12 months and found that 70 percent of Americans had altered their diet to lose weight. Seventy-five percent of respondents said they were concerned about their weight, compared to 66 percent in 2006, and 56 percent said they were actively "trying to lose weight." An increasing number of Americans also said they had changed their diet to make it healthier and over half the respondents (58 percent) confirmed they had reduced portion sizes. Sixty percent of Americans who said they were trying to lose weight admitted they were making an effort "to reduce the number of calories" they consumed. However, it would seem that the food industry could play a greater role in educating consumers as only 11 percent correctly estimated the recommended number of calories per day for a person of their age and weight. Moreover, only 31 percent correctly understood that calories from any source contributed equally to potential weight gain. Trans fats were high up on the list of specific health concerns mentioned by respondents to the survey, with 72 percent indicating they were concerned with the amount and types of fats they consumed compared to 66 percent last year. Awareness of trans fats grew to 87 percent in 2007 from 81 percent in 2006. Sixty-three percent of Americans said they used trans fat information on the Nutrition Facts Panel, up from 49 percent last year, and 75 percent said they were limiting their consumption of trans fat, compared to 54 percent in 2006. However, understanding of the types of "good" fats that can be consumed in greater quantities was sketchy. Awareness of mono- and polyunsaturated fats has declined over the past year, and the number of Americans trying to consume less polyunsaturated fats increased to 42 percent from 33 percent in 2006. Americans remained concerned about the amount (70 percent in 2007 versus 63 percent in 2006) and the type (58 percent versus 53 percent) of sugar they ate. Overall consumption trends stayed consistent for low-calorie sweeteners, with the exception of aspartame. The survey found that fewer people were trying to consumer less aspartame, down from 40 per cent in 2006 to 31 per cent in 2007. Despite these health concerns, "taste" and "price" continued to have the greatest impact on Americans' food-buying decisions. Eighty-eight percent of Americans considered taste to be priority when buying food, while 72% believed price was most important and 65% put the emphasis on whether the food was healthy. If food manufacturers want to cash in on these trends they should be putting their research money into improving their breakfast and snack products: 90 percent of consumers named breakfast as the most important meal of the day, while nearly all Americans (93 percent) consumed at least one snack per day.

Related topics: R&D

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