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The food consumption patterns and perceptions of dietary advice of older people

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Background

Prevention policies do not have an upper age limit, and as the overwhelming majority of older people continue to reside in the community there is a growing role for community dietetics and primary care team members in the promotion of healthy eating. Method

The multi-method project ascertained the dietary beliefs and practices of older people residing in high-income, low-income and rural localities of Scotland. One hundred and fifty-two people aged 75 years and over were interviewed using a semistructured interview schedule and 24-h food recall questionnaire. Results

An analysis of the food recall questionnaire demonstrated that the diets of the elderly appear to differ little from the Scottish population as a whole. In all groups there was an under consumption of fruits and vegetables reported. Findings from the interviews demonstrated that dietary beliefs were found to be firmly rooted in childhood and lifetime experiences. Participants defined healthy eating as ‘proper meals’, ‘proper foods’, and a variety of foods eaten in moderation. These definitions were based upon the consumption of fresh foods which would be considered healthy. Changing and conflicting advice on health and nutrition was contrasted with personal experiences. Few knew of the role of the dietitian or community dietitian. Conclusions

This study demonstrates a contrast between stated beliefs and actual consumption patterns. Access to food, and the cost and quality of foods impacted upon food practices. The role of the community dietitian should be promoted. Advice on healthy eating must work with contemporary practices and beliefs building upon positive aspects of diet and eating and involving the food industry, retail sector and health services.
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Keywords: community; dietary advice; dietetics; food consumption; health promotion; older people

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Division of Sociology and Social Policy, School of Social Sciences, and 2: Department of General Practice and Primary Care, and 3: Community Dietetics, Grampian Healthcare Trust, Seaton Clinic 4: Centre for Community Health Research and Evaluation, Faculty of Health Studies, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow G4 0BA; 5: Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, University of Aberdeen;

Publication date: 01 June 2000

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