UK adults confused about nutrition

New research from the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) reveals that 43% of adults surveyed admit that they find it difficult to find reliable information on healthy diets, with changing information, messages and advice from media and experts being the biggest causes for confusion (76% and 61% respectively).

The survey, conducted as part of BNF Healthy Eating Week, questioned almost 500 adults across the UK and found that social media platforms (37%) are the most common reported source for nutritional information for adults. Under a third (30%) of respondents said that they use the NHS website, a quarter visit other health websites and 14% said that they gather nutritional information from a doctor, hospital or health clinic.

Roy Ballam, BNF’s managing director and head of education, says, “With two thirds of adults overweight or obese, the UK is in the middle of an obesity crisis – and a lack of consumer knowledge and reliable information on healthy eating is a huge cause for concern.

“In the digital age, with growing concerns about the trustworthiness of information in the media, many are confused about which online sources are reliable – unsurprising when there is so much conflicting advice available. The public need to receive more consistent messaging about diet and nutrition if we are to stand a fighting chance of changing these worrying health statistics.”

Two thirds (68%) of survey respondents reported that they are motivated to eat healthily to control their weight and, when shopping for food, 61% of adults said they always or often check nutrition labels on food. Two thirds or more of people surveyed said that the calories (64%), sugar (68%) and fat (60%) are the things they look for on nutrition labels.

Almost half (48%) of adults surveyed say that busy lives and stress play a large role in stopping them from eating healthily. 40% of adults said that being too tired after work is the main reason for not being active.

Ballam says, “It is really encouraging to see that people are motivated to eat well and to check the nutritional content of the foods they buy, however there are clearly many who are struggling to put this into action because they are too busy, stressed or tired. We need to find evidence-based, practical ways to make it easier to be healthy that fit in with people’s daily lives.”

The survey also showed a number of different factors that affect people’s food choices when at work or university. A third of adults said that high workload makes it difficult to eat well and they find it difficult to take a proper lunch break, and a quarter said they do not have enough time to prepare healthy foods when at work. 24% of respondents said there are limited healthy food and drink options available at work or close by and 28% said there were too many unhealthy snacks available in their work setting.

Ballam continues, “We know that a key to reducing obesity is changing behaviour – some of this will come from government and local environments making it easier for people to change. The results from this survey show that the main motivation for being healthy is weight control, however there seem to be a number of barriers within workplaces and universities that make this difficult.

“Encouraging work settings to engage more with health may be an effective way of helping people put their good intentions into action and we’ve seen an excellent response to BNF Healthy Eating Week for workplaces and universities this year, with over 1,400 organisations participating.”

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