Older Americans have a strong appetite for health but face barriers, says nutrition survey

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14 Jun 2018 --- Amid rising levels of the over fifties managing more than one chronic disease, US citizens are tuning into their health and nutrition more than ever, an International Food Information Council (IFIC) study has found. Heart health and muscle health proved to be the two most concerning topics for this age group, at 80 and 75 percent respectively, while brain health and having enough energy were equally essential health topics at 74 percent. The seniors are clearly demonstrating strong health goals but also a lack of understanding of how to achieve them.

The survey asked more than 1,000 adults over 50 years of age how they make decisions on their eating habits, if they understand their dietary needs and what is motivating them to make positive changes. While people, in general, tend to think of food in relation to weight management or weight loss, the survey reveals that adult eating habits and health priorities may change with age.

Results showed that the vast majority of older adults are making at least some effort to eat the right amount of certain nutrients and food groups and that roughly 6 in 10 adults said they had better diet and lifestyle behaviors compared to their habits 20 years ago.

In fact, the data found that:

Click to Enlarge
Cardiovascular health was the most
important concern to participants.
  • Nearly as many as 86 percent are making an effort to replace less-healthy foods and beverages with more nutrient-dense options.
  • 87 percent are trying to eat the right amount and variety of protein.
  • The same number reported trying to eat the right amount and variety of vegetables.

“The IFIC Foundation survey shows that people are trying to get the right foods into their diet, but a recent study we did with The Ohio State University showed that more than one in three adults over 50 years old aren't getting the recommended amount of protein each day,” says Abby Sauer, a Registered Dietitian at Abbott. “Good nutrition, with muscle-building nutrients like protein, is essential to help maintain your muscle health and live a healthy, active life at any age.”

Barriers and facilitators to healthy eating in the over fifties
“When we remove the barriers of cost and time, that doesn't mean they will become facilitators of healthy eating,” says Lewin-Zwerdling. “The research shows that the facilitators of a healthier society require larger systemic changes – starting with more education and better access to the right nutrition across the country.”

WhiClick to Enlargele many adults are making healthy food choices, the data revealed a lack of understanding about what foods can help achieve desired health outcomes. Nearly one-third (32 percent) couldn’t name a specific food or nutrient that they would avoid to help achieve their prioritized health outcome.

Similarly, over one-quarter of respondents (26 percent) could not name a food or nutrient they would seek out to help with their most important health outcome. Vegetables topped the list of specific foods or components to seek out for all health topics (28 percent), with protein (18 percent) and fruit (17 percent), coming in second and third. Whole grains (5 percent), and dairy (3 percent) were less likely to be named as foods that adults seek out.

The survey also examined which factors made it easier to eat a healthy diet and what stood in the way. Knowledge (41 percent), accessibility (37 percent) and physical ability (32 percent) were the top three facilitators that make it easier to have a healthy diet. Conversely, cost (44 percent) and time (23 percent) were thClick to Enlargee top barriers cited by adults over 50 that made it harder to eat healthier.

The findings are derived from an online survey of 1,005 Americans ages 50 and older. The results were weighted (by age, education, gender, race/ethnicity and region) to ensure that they are reflective of the American population 50+, as seen in the Census Bureau’s 2017 Current Population Survey. The survey, which was supported by Abbott, was conducted by Greenwald & Associates using ResearchNow’s consumer panel.

The findings follow the release of the 13th Annual Food and Health Survey, also conducted by IFIC. The key takeaways from this nation-wide survey were that Americans were dieting at extremely high levels, desired health benefits such as heart health, but also exhibited high levels of confusion around how to achieve such benefits.

You can read about the report in full here.

The results from both surveys arguably call for a more united-front for public education on nutrition, food and health.

NutritionInsight has a special report on the topic of nutrition for the senior groups, The right nutrition for the golden years: Space for personalization.

By Laxmi Haigh
 

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