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A consideration of eating patterns in the general population is necessary when deriving food-based dietary guidelines (FBDG) as promoting the intake of one food may indirectly result in the increased consumption of another, which may not always be desirable. A number of issues that influence meal patterns such as temporal distribution of food intake (using data from the Netherlands), converging and diverging foods (using data from Ireland) and meals eaten inside and outside of the home (using data from the UK) are examined and discussed in the context of developing FBDG.
Food intake databases from three EU countries: The Netherlands, Ireland and the UK.
The hot meal (dinner) was found to be the main contributor to the intake of energy and macro-nutrients in the Dutch population. It was also the main contributor to the intake of all micro-nutrients with the exception of calcium where the bread meal contributed a similar proportion as the hot meal to the intake of this micronutrient. Furthermore, fruit intake showed a very different temporal distribution to vegetable intake. Exploring the convergence of certain foods in the Irish population also revealed differences between fruit and vegetables. A low correlation was shown for consumers of fruit and vegetables indicating that being a high fruit consumer did not suggest being also a high vegetable consumer. An examination of where meals were consumed among British adults showed that 71% of all meals were consumed inside the home while 29% were consumed outside. 27% of food energy and 45% of alcohol energy was consumed out of home by the total population. In addition, those eating less of their foods out of home obtained a lower proportion of their food energy from fat and protein and a higher proportion from carbohydrate. A different demographic profile was associated with eating out compared to eating in, comprising more males and younger individuals.
Information on patterns of food intake and food habits, specifically temporal distribution, the convergence and divergence of foods and foods consumed inside and outside of the home, give a culturally specific picture of food consumption practices within a population. This should enable the development of more culturally acceptable and realistic FBDG.
To identify the most important motivations for food choice from the point of view of the consumer in the Irish population, and to characterize those subjects who do and do not regard nutrition as a significant consideration in food choice.
As part of a pan-European Union (EU) survey on consumer attitudes to food, nutrition and health, a quota-controlled, nationally representative sample of Irish adults (n = 1009) aged 15 years upwards, completed an interview-assisted, close-ended questionnaire. Subjects selected three factors, from a list of 15, which they believed had the greatest influence on their food choice.
The interviews for the survey were conducted in subjects' homes.
‘Quality/freshness of food’ was the most frequently selected food choice factor (51%) followed by ’taste‘ (43%) and ‘trying to eat a healthy diet’ (36%). Female gender, increasing age and higher levels of education were found to be independent sociodemographic factors affecting the selection of ‘trying to eat a healthy diet’ as an important factor in food choice.
Although included in the top five most frequently selected factors affecting food choice, nutrition/healthy eating does not appear to have top priority for the majority of Irish adults. There are differences between the various sociodemographic groups within the population; males and younger subjects appear to require specific nutrition promotion messages.
To assess the more prevalent beliefs about body weight and the factors involved in weight changes in the Spanish adult population.
A national survey was carried out according to an established protocol on Spanish subjects selected by a multistage procedure following a random route model, which was quota-controlled for several sociodemographic variables. This study was undertaken by the Spanish arm of a pan-European survey and was performed with a validated questionnaire. It contained questions to evaluate some aspects concerning the relationship between obesity, physical activity and health. We also estimated the proportion of self-reported overweight and obesity.
The sample included 1000 subjects aged 15 years or older.
Eleven per cent of the sample were obese (body mass index, BMI > 30 kg m-2) and an additional 32% were overweight (BMI > 25 and < 30 kg m-2). Obesity prevalence was higher among older individuals, those with lower education and socioeconomic levels, and among housewives and retired or unemployed people. Most Spanish people believed that fat intake (51%) and the amount of food consumption (44%) were the major factors involved in weight gain, while physical activity was less mentioned (12%). The method most frequently used to lose weight was diet (9%). Individuals from central and southern regions payed more attention to genetics (20–27%) and physical activity (12–20%) as determinants of weight gain than people living in the north or northwest regions (15–17% and 8–9%, respectively). Normal weight people participated more often in some physical activity during their leisure time.
The Spanish population is not familiar with factors influencing weight gain. Health promotion strategies should emphasize the role of physical activity, especially among older individuals, retired or unemployed subjects, those from lower educational or socioeconomic levels and among people living in the north or northwest of Spain.
The rapid increase in obesity rates over recent years suggest that cultural and societal influences are affecting the adjustment in the energy balance equation in addition to other physiopathological or genetic determinants. Therefore, a pan-EU study was carried out to explore the influence of sociodemographic factors as well as some attitudes (smoking and exercise) on the prevalence of obesity in the adult population of all 15 member states of the EU.
Overall, a sample of 15 239 individuals aged 15 years and upwards in the EU completed the questionnaire. Subject selection was quota-controlled to make the sample nationally representative following a multistage stratified cluster sampling. Self-reported height and weight were used to calculate body mass index (BMI).
From the EU average results, it can be seen that only about half of the EU population (48%) is within the normal weight range, while the obesity (BMI > ≥ 30 kg m−2) prevalence was about 10% in the EU and the overweight prevalence was 36.6% and 25.6% among men and women, respectively. UK subjects had the highest prevalence of obesity (12%), while Italians, French and Swedes had the lowest levels of obesity (about 7%). Concerning age and social class interactions, logistic regression analysis showed that high social class and younger individuals in all groups had a lower odds ratio for obesity prevalence. People with a higher level of education are less likely to be obese, while the interaction between educational levels and obesity was different for men and women. A low participation in various leisure-time physical activities, the lack of interest (precontemplation) in being involved in exercise/physical activity and the increasing number of hours sitting down at work appear to be predictors of obesity. Single individuals were less prone to become obese than couples or widowed/divorced people. Finally, smoking status was statistically linked to the prevalence of obesity, since non-smokers or ex-smokers for more than 1 year presented a higher tendency for a BMI > 30.
This survey confirms that a priority area for health intervention aimed at preventing the development of obesity should be to increase levels of physical activity, although the approach will depend on the population, especially with respect to educational and socioeconomic aspects.
The purpose of conducting this survey was to identify data on consumer attitudes towards and beliefs about physical activity, body weight and health among the 15 countries of the EU.
A cross-sectional study to get a picture of the attitudes to physical activity, body weight and health in the EU. For this, it was considered important that samples be nationally representative so that inferences drawn from the data could be applied to the population in each country as well as to the EU population as a whole. Using a non-probability sampling method employing quota controls (and the national weight) we obtained large sample sizes from each country which were nationally representative in terms of the variables age, sex and regional distribution. To ensure samples were truly nationally representative a national weight was used when analysing the data using the same characteristics as those used to define quotas. When examining pooled estimates for the total EU sample a population weight was applied.
In total, 15 239 subjects aged 15 years and upwards in the EU completed the survey. This article gives details on the methods used in carrying out the survey from design of the questionnaire to sample selection, questionnaire administration and analysis of the data. The methods and their limitations are discussed.
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