End Confusion About Nutrition and Health
Thursday, May 4, 2006
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Even consumers who acknowledge the connection between food, nutrition, and health associate the word "diet" with denial, said Susan T. Borra, registered dietitian and president of the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation.
Speaking as part of the Grace M. Shugart lecture series in Kansas State University's College of Human Ecology, Borra focused her remarks on public perceptions of nutrition and health and the current communication environment that contributes to confusion.
Part of today's confusion about nutrition and health reflects changes in how we communicate emerging science, she said. Research that once focused on disease and was reported primarily to physicians is now often focused on wellness, with findings reported through media.
"Consumers believe that health professionals keep changing their minds about what foods are healthy and what foods are not," said Borra, whose organization counted more than 6,310 different U.S. print media articles on obesity and health in the first three months of this year.
Consumers in focus groups assembled by the IFIC Foundation acknowledged awareness of nutrition and health information, but said they had difficulty understanding multiple messages, often with conflicting information.
With 64 percent of adults and 30 percent of children in the United States overweight or obese, Borra said, it is important to help consumers understand what they need to do and how to do it. For example, the recommendation to "choose a diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol" might read: "Foods with fat can fit; moderate, don't eliminate."
For the general population, eating healthy doesn't have to mean giving up favorite foods. Moderation is key, said Borra, whose audience included students planning careers in food, nutrition, health, education, Extension, and hotel and restaurant management.