Because eating well is a bet on health
In recent decades, developed societies have experienced a food overabundance and this is reflected in the increase in life expectancy. At the same time health problems, such as obesity, have appeared, which highlight the lack of balance between nutrition and health. World Health Organization data clearly show this: since 1975, obesity has almost tripled worldwide; in 2016, 39% of adults were overweight and 13% were obese.
In Spanish society, and despite of the Mediterranean diet culture, the data are not better. Over the past 30 years, overweight and obesity have been increasing steadily, which means an increased risk of health problems such as high blood pressure (20% of the population) or hypercholesterolemia (18%).
Figure 1: National Health Survey, Spain, 2017
The current trend in health is towards a balanced lifestyle that prevents the emergence of diet-related diseases in the future.
Are we willing to change our lifestyle?
OCU, Spain’s Consumers and Users Organisation, within the framework of the PREVENTOMICS project and to complement its work with more up-to-date data, carried out an online survey to a panel of 1,029 consumers to bring the consumer’s point of view to personalized nutrition, the tools used to reach the design of the individual diet, the use of digital apps and platforms and the behavioral changes involved.
The sample comprised 53% women and 47% men with ages between 25 and 74 years. The results were analysed taking into account gender, age, level of education and geographical distribution.
The most important aspect related to personalised diet is the reeducation of eating habits, well ahead of other suggested factors, such as genetic testing, psychological advice, recommendations in the supermarket and digital health care tools. Delving into the question of the reeducation of habits, we asked them about daily habits that, in their opinion, are easier or difficult to change.
According to the people surveyed, the lifestyle habits easiest to change are the following (we highlight the sociodemographic data with significant differences):
- Eating better (e.g.: more fruit and vegetables, less processed products, etc.): 52%. Women tend to find easier to eat better than men (56 compared to 47%).
- Doing more physical exercise: 15%. For men (19%) it is easier to do exercise than for women (11%).
- Getting enough sleep: 13%. The youngest tend to find it easier (14%) to get enough sleep than those between 60-74 years (9%).
- Managing time better in daily life: 12%. The group between 40-59 years is the one that mentioned time management least frequently (9%).
- Other: 8% (including improving emotional well-being (5%) and giving up smoking (3%).
On the other hand, the lifestyle habits that are more difficult to change for citizens are (we highlight the sociodemographic data with significant differences):
- Improving emotional well-being: 30%.
- Doing more physical exercise: 19%. Women (23%) have more difficulty than men (15%).
- Managing time better in daily life: 17%. The group between 60-74 years is the one that mentioned time management least frequently (10%).
- Giving up smoking: 14%. Men tend to find giving up smoking more difficult (16%) than women (11%). The older respondents (17%) more frequently mention giving up smoking as the most difficult aspect
- Getting enough sleep: 12%.
- Eating better: 8%.
Regarding the main bumps in the road that the consumers find when trying to change their lifestyle habits are:
- Lack of time: 27%.
- Lack of motivation: 22%.
- Difficulty giving up certain “pleasures” or habits: 15%.
- Health professionals’ messages are difficult to understand or do not fit people’s needs: 14%.
- Lack of information or knowledge: 10%.
- Laziness: 7%.
- The change involves too much expense: 5%.
When combining the two findings described above – the main difficulties for each changing in lifestyle habits – the results obtained are:
We thereby determined that, in order to eat better, the greatest difficulty is to have to give up certain pleasures. Although it may seem strange, the same happens with smoking: there is a strong association between smoking and pleasure. Lack of time is the reason why people don’t get enough sleep and, perhaps, it would be the reason for (rather than the cause of) needing to manage time better.
According to respondents, the most important impediment for eating better is having to give up certain pleasures
The PREVENTOMICS project will give personalised advice in a very practical and easy way to consumers to make it easier for them to make changes in their lifestyle habits, and to jump over the difficulties we have seen. The project will develop tools, based on individual traits such as physical and behavioural traits, lifestyle, genotype, preferences and physical condition, suitable for average consumers that can contribute to improve their lifestyle and dietary habits in order to prevent the development of certain pathologies such as obesity, cardiovascular disease diabetes etc. or improve the control of this health problems when they are already present.
OCU’s role in the project is to bring the consumer’s point of view to personalised nutrition, the tools used to reach the design of the individual diet, the use of digital apps and platforms and the behavioural changes involved.
OCU – Organization of Consumers and Users
OCU is a private independent non-profit organization that aims to promote and defend the interests of consumers, guiding them in their choices as consumers, working to help them solve their problems within the consumption of different products and to assert their fundamental rights as consumers. OCU works on different projects interesting for consumers and healthy diet is one of priorities of the association. Regarding healthy eating habits, OCU participates in dissemination campaigns in several media such as television, press, expertise magazines, the site www.ocu.org and more particularly https://www.ocu.org/alimentacion/comer-bien , having capacity to reach a great number of users.