CHICAGO - Increasing numbers of American adults are aware of the importance of nutrition and physical activity and are taking steps to eat a healthy diet and engage in exercise, according to the American Dietetic Association's nationwide consumer opinion survey, Nutrition and You: Trends 2008.
In each ADA survey since 1991, ADA has used respondents' answers to a number of different questions to segment consumers into three groups representing people's overall attitudes toward maintaining a healthy diet and getting regular exercise:
- I'm Already Doing It: Consumers who feel that maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise are very important; are concerned about diet, nutrition and overall fitness; and feel they are doing all they can to eat a healthy diet.
- I Know I Should: Consumers who feel that maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise are very important, but may not have taken significant actions to do all they can to eat a healthy diet.
- Don't Bother Me: People who do not feel diet and exercise are very important to them and are the least concerned with their overall nutrition and fitness.
Results of ADA's 2008 survey show the percentage of people in the Don't Bother Me category has dropped substantially, especially from 2002 (32%) to 2008 (19%). "This is the first year the Don't Bother Me group has represented less than one-third of the population," said registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association spokesperson Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo. She noted that the segment had been as large as 40 percent in the mid-1990s.
"The steady increases we are seeing among the I'm Already Doing It segment appear to represent movement away from Don't Bother Me, while the I Know I Shoulds remain relatively constant - 38% in 2008, and 30% in 2002.
"These trends tell us people are paying more attention to their nutritional and physical activity needs and are increasingly doing what they need to do to eat right and be healthy," Gazzaniga-Moloo said.
"The findings indicate there will likely always be a core group of consumers who remain in the Don't Bother Me segment, so our challenge as registered dietitians is to move as many people as possible, through healthful eating messages and nutrition-related health-care services, from I Know I Should - the people who 'get it' - into I'm Already Doing It," Gazzaniga-Moloo said.
According to ADA's 2008 survey, two-thirds of consumers said diet and nutrition are "very important" to them personally (67%), and three in five said physical activity is very important (61%). This continues an upward trend that has been occurring since ADA's first survey in 1991.
"It's great to see these trends continue to head upward, but there is definitely still room for improvement in Americans' eating and physical activity habits," Gazzaniga-Moloo said.
Women were more likely than men to say diet and physical activity both are very important, while younger adults were much less likely than older people to consider diet and nutrition very important. Meanwhile, physical activity is seen as very important by all age groups, representing slight but consistent increases in recent years.
And people with a college education and beyond were more likely to say diet and nutrition are very important than people with a high school degree or less.
The American Dietetic Association is the world's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. ADA is committed to improving the nation's health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. Visit the American Dietetic Association at www.eatright.org.