European dietary survey reveals alarming rate of confusion and misinformation 14-Sep-2015
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A new survey reveals people in the UK, Germany and the US may not be eating as healthily as they believe, with 72% of respondents claiming to have a good diet. Public health figures suggest this may be delusional.
The Global Nutrition and Health Alliance (GNHA), which commissioned the survey, said the results did not match up with the rates of chronic diseases related to nutrition in the surveyed countries. And according to the survey results themselves, more than half of respondents reported not consuming enough vitamin D, one of two micronutrients, along with omega-3, respondents were questioned on.
“This survey emphasises what we suspected as an Alliance – no matter how well we think we’re communicating about health and healthy eating, there remains a huge amount of confusion about what our food actually contains, which foods are good sources of specific nutrients, and furthermore, why we as human beings need specific nutrients,” a founding member of GNHA.
More questions than answers
He said the survey produced more questions than answers, and said the Alliance was keen to do more research: “This is our first study – now we’re proposing further studies. What we really want to go on and look at is what actually is the reality? If people perceive their diet to be healthy, what is the reality when we look at blood results for nutritional status – and I think that will be particularly interesting.”
More than 77% of people surveyed said they realised the importance of omega-3s to health – but many people, (65% in the US, 34% in Germany, 23% in the UK) said they weren’t sure if they were getting enough of the healthy fats.
And while most other results were broadly similar among the countries, the survey showed Americans were roughly twice as likely to take both omega-3 (45%) and vitamin D (62%) supplements than the Europeans (26% took omega-3 and 31% took vitamin D).
‘As screwed up as each other’
They found it interesting that people’s beliefs about their diets were so similar in all three countries surveyed: “As health professions, the perception might be that the UK would sit in the middle of those two countries, with Germany being more aware and the US being more ambivalent when it comes to health – but in actual fact, we’re all pretty much as screwed up as each other.”
The GNHA is a relatively new organisation, founded in 2014 and made up of doctors and nutritionists from the US, UK and Germany. The Alliance is funded by an unrestricted educational grant. The Alliance was keen to produce independent, high-quality material to promote good health: “We really want our messaging and resources to be bespoke, and that’s where we’re doing our research first, to make sure we don’t just regurgitate messages that are already out there. Our gut feeling is these messages have been spouted out for quite some time, and they don’t seem to be working.”
Along with further research on what people actually consume, GNHA was interested in looking at the actual nutritional content of foods: “If we look at a lot of the nutritional data for food tables, it was calculated decades ago – and a great deal has changed around how we produce food. Depletion of nutrients in food is now a serious crisis for human health and does have an impact on the nutrient content of those foods?”
The survey was conducted by Instantly in December 2014, through an online questionnaire. Respondents included 1,022 people in the US, 1,002 in Germany and 1,006 in the UK.
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