|Motivation - Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is one of the most important causes of mortality and morbidity in South Africa. The major risk factors are prevalent in both the
developed and developing areas of the world, among all social classes, and are of similar public health significance in all countries regardless of their level of development. This indicates that much scope remains for further reducing coronary heart disease (CHD) death rates in developed countries and for preventing the emerging CHD epidemic in poorer nations. This study aims at identifying the beliefs of the South African adult population regarding food and
cardiovascular health and to therefore identify target groups for education programs. Objectives - To investigate the beliefs of South African adults towards the importance of the link between food and cardiovascular health, especially between the different races, living standards, age and gender groups. Also to determine whether this population looks for the Heart Foundation symbol on food products, as well as where the link between food and heart disease ranks in terms of importance
compared to other highly prevalent diseases.
Method - The design of the study was a randomized cross-sectional study. Trained field workers administrated questionnaires by conducting face-to-face interviews with
consumers in the language of their choice. Two thousand South African individuals (1 6 years and older) were randomly selected from metropolitan areas in South Africa. The data was weighted to be representative of the total South African metropolitan consumer population, based on gender, age and race distribution (n=10 695 000). The total population was representative of both
genders (5 423 000 men and 5 272 000 women) and major race groups (2 615 000 whites, 6 252 000 blacks, 1 255 000 coloureds and 573 000 Indians), from
different age and living standards groups. The market research group, MARKINOR, was contracted to collect the data. Quantitive data was statistically analysed in order to generate the relevant descriptive statistics, cross tabulations and statistical tests. Results - The majority of the population found the link between food and cardiovascular risk related health issues to be important, especially the higher LSM groups within the different race groups. The link between food and weight loss was considered the least important compared to other cardiovascular risk factors (cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, healthy blood vessels). Only 35% of the study population agreed with the statement that they look for the Heart Foundation symbol, while 46% disagreed with the statement. There was a greater tendency for the higher LSM groups to look for the Heart Foundation symbol than the lower LSM groups. Heart disease was considered just as important and in some cases more important when compared with HIVIAIDS and cancer. Conclusions - This study shows that the metropolitan South African adult population is aware of the importance of food on CVD. Nutritional education needs to be aimed at both genders and all ages of the lower socio-economic groups of South Africa. The reasons why such a large percentage of the South African metropolitan adults do not look for the Heart Foundation symbol, or are undecided about it, needs to be investigated and addressed. Prevention programs promoting a healthy lifestyle, which would address the risk factors associated with CVD,
should be received with a positive attitude.