To Choose or not to Choose Functional Foods, that is the Question : Swedish Consumers’ and Health-care Professionals’ Attitudes to and Use of Functional Foods

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: The aim of this thesis is to investigate attitudes to functional foods (here defined as foods with health claims) among Swedish consumers and health-care professionals. The aim is also to survey demographics and health interests associated with the consumption of functional foods among Swedish consumers. Finally, the aim is to investigate health-care professionals’ knowledge of and willingness to recommend functional foods to patients.Examples of functional foods used in the studies are probiotic fruit-drinks, probiotic milk-products, cholesterol-lowering spreads and fibre-rich bread with omega-3 fatty acids. Ten focus groups of consumers and three of health-care professionals were conducted. Two questionnaires were also used, one for consumers aged 17-75 years (n=2000) and one for health-care professionals (dieticians, n=100; registered nurses, n=200; physicians, n=200). Almost half of the consumers (48%) and exactly half (50%) of the health-care professionals responded.The consumers wondered whether the functional foods were normal foods or medicines. They considered functional foods unnecessary, unless you suffer from incurable diet-related problems. The consumers were worried that the foods could be used as a compensation for an unhealthy lifestyle. While the consumers in the focus groups were mainly sceptical towards functional foods, these foods are being consumed by those who perceive them as necessary, the health-conscious, the well-educated and people who have noticed effect of the foods.The registered nurses and physicians, in contrast to the dieticians, expressed doubts regarding the claimed effects of the functional foods. The dieticians rated higher knowledge and were more willing to recommend functional foods to patients than were the physicians and, to some extent, the registered nurses. The interviews with the health-care professionals revealed that the dieticians were more positive towards functional foods than the registered nurses and, primarily, the physicians. This was confirmed through the questionnaire. Those, who consumed functional foods, reported high knowledge, and perceived benefits of functional foods, were most likely to recommend these foods to patients.

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