Addressing health through nutrition: Top consumer priorities

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Percent Nutrition

Heart health, weight loss and cancer protection are the top three health concerns that Americans try to address through their diets, according to a new survey.

The International Food Information Council (IFIC) survey, conducted on a regular basis over the past decade, also found a “significantly”​ increased awareness of the health benefits associated with specific food components.

“Americans’ consumption of functional foods or food components parallels their awareness of food/health associations. When prompted with a certain food or food component and a corresponding health benefit, consumers report they are already consuming specific foods or components related to some of their top health concerns, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, weight management, and bone health,”​ wrote IFIC.

The online survey of 1,000 American adults, conducted in May by Cogent Research on behalf of IFIC, asked participants to rate their top three health concerns.

Almost half of respondents (48 percent) listed heart health, 31 percent listed weight, and 24 percent listed cancer. Diabetes (17 percent), lung/respiratory health (7 percent), and arthritis (5 percent) also made the list of top concerns.

Although heart health remained top of mind, IFIC said this is a significant decrease from 2007, when this was the top concern for 53 percent of consumers, and 2005 when it was cited by 54 percent.

“This decline may be the result of significantly fewer Americans reporting concern about cholesterol this year (nine percent) compared to 2007 (13 percent),”​ wrote IFIC.

Perception of food benefits

Participants were provided with a list of health benefits, and asked if they believed specific foods or drinks could provide these. The results were as follows:

  • Improve heart health (85 percent)
  • Contribute to healthy growth and development in children (83 percent)
  • Improve energy or stamina (82 percent)
  • Improve bone health (82 percent)
  • Maintain overall health and wellness (82 percent)
  • Contribute to healthy body weight (81 percent)
  • Improve digestive health (81 percent)
  • Improve immune system function (80 percent)
  • Contribute to healthy circulation (78 percent)
  • Contribute to healthy pregnancy (75 percent)
  • Provide a feeling of fullness for a longer period of time (73 percent)
  • Improve overall appearance (73 percent)
  • Reduce risk of getting a specific disease (73 percent)
  • Improve eye health (73 percent)
  • Improve mental performance (72 percent)
  • Diminish effects of current health problems (68 percent)

Specific foods, specific benefits

The foods most likely to be consumed for a specific health condition are:

  • ‘Calcium, found for example in dairy foods such as milk, cheese, or yogurt or in calcium fortified foods or beverages, for the promotion of bone health’ (58 percent)
  • ‘Vitamin D, found for example in fortified foods and beverages, for the promotion of bone health’ (56 percent)
  • ‘Fiber, found for example in vegetables, fruits, and some fortified foods such as breads and cereals, for a reduced risk of heart disease’ and ‘…for digestive health’ (both at 56 percent)
  • ‘Protein, found, for example, in meat, dairy, beans, nuts, soy, and some fortified foods and beverages, for maintaining optimal health’ (56 percent);
  • ‘Antioxidants, found for example in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dark chocolate, coffee, and certain teas, for protection against free radical damage implicated in aging and various chronic diseases’ (54 percent); and
  • ‘Fiber, found for example in vegetables, fruits, and some fortified foods such as breads and cereals, for reduced risk of cancer’ (54 percent).

“Consumers are most aware of food/health benefit associations related to their greatest health concerns of cardiovascular disease, weight maintenance, and cancer, as well as those that have been well-established and promoted over time, such as calcium for bone health,”​ said IFIC.

To read more about the specific foods consumers choose in order to improve their health, click here​.

To view webcast slides of the survey findings, click here​.

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