South African consumers' beliefs about the link between food and health
Motivation: Diet and nutrition are important factors in the promotion and maintenance of good health throughout the entire life course. Their role as determinants of chronic noncommunicable diseases is well established. Alterations in diet, both positive and negative have strong effects on health throughout life. Consumers' awareness of a diet-disease relationship may stimulate interest in learning more about nutrition thus acquiring necessary knowledge for dietary improvement and disease prevention. Objectives: • To investigate South African metropolitan consumers beliefs and attitudes about the link between food and health. • To explore the demographic characteristics and beliefs of South African consumers regarding the link between food and health; and to investigate whether differences exist in this belief between gender, race, age group and Living Standard Measures (LSM). Methodology: One thousand nine hundred and ninety seven South African adults (≥16 years), representing the four major race groups of South Africa, were selected by stratified random sampling from metropolitan areas in South Africa. The sample was weighted based on the South African 2000 National census data, to be representative of the adult metropolitan population based on gender, age and race distribution. Trained field workers administered the questionnaire by conducting face-to-face interviews with South African consumers. The questionnaire was designed by a multidisciplinary team and contained a number of statements on eating habits, food and health. Results: There were no practically significant differences in consumers' responses in terms of gender or age. Practically significant differences were found between different race and LSM groups for some variables. A small practically significant difference was observed among the races in statement 1, and between LSM 2 to 3 and LSM 7 to 10; and between LSM 4 to 6 and LSM 7 to 10 in statement 1 and statement 6. In statement 2, a small practically significant difference was observed between Whites and Coloureds. Statement 4 indicated a small practically significant difference between Blacks and Indians. A medium practically significant difference was found between LSM 2 to 3 and LSM 7 to 10 for statement 4. A small practically significant difference was evident between Whites and Blacks; and between Blacks and Coloureds in statement 6. A medium practically significant difference was found between Blacks and lndians in statement 6. The overall response of South African consumers towards the belief that food has an effect on health, that food can influence health and the development of some diseases, and that healthy food is only for people that have a disease, was very positive. However 56% of South African consumers do not want to have to think about disease when choosing food. Conclusion: Results from this study reveal that South African consumers have some understanding of the diet-disease relationship and believe that there is some link between food and health. This belief however differs between age, gender, race and LSM group. However, more research with regards what influences people's eating behaviour, attitudes towards healthy food and beliefs about the diet-disease relationship needs to be done in South Africa.