Fitting Dietary Fats into a Healthful Diet-A Consumer Point of View

Over the years, nutrition messages have become more accessible through the Internet, media, celebrities, and many other sources.  Multiple inputs of different information can create a confusing environment where consumers become unsure of who or what to believe.  The most popular advice usually advocates the abandonment of certain foods or food groups.  In 2004, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation conducted qualitative research to determine consumers’ knowledge and perceptions of dietary recommendations regarding general nutrition, nutrients, dietary fats, dieting, and health.

Four focus groups were held.  The groups consisted of “nutritionally savvy” women, women who have a “common sense” approach to eating, men and women dieters who restrict foods/food groups, and men and women opposed to dieting.  Questions relating to their perception of messages, knowledge of dietary fats, and factors influencing food and diet choices were asked.  A significant divide was identified between what consumers “know” and what they “do”.  Some other major findings from the study revealed that:

  1. Consumers associate dietary fats more with the foods that contain them, rather than the specific fatty acid,
  2. Consumers were generally willing to adopt unhealthful dieting practices to achieve weight loss goals in the short-term without regard to long-term health implications, and
    Consumers were open to messages about how some dietary fats can be healthful in the context of a balanced lifestyle.
  3. These insights will be used to provide consumers with unified and targeted dietary fats messages that are understandable and achievable.

View the full report (PDF)