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Open Access Research

Functional food awareness and perceptions in relation to information sources in older adults

Meagan N Vella1, Laura M Stratton1, Judy Sheeshka2 and Alison M Duncan1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Road East, Guelph, Ontario, Canada N1G 2W1

2 Food, Nutrition and Dietetics, Victoria University, PO Box 14428, Melbourne, Victoria 8001, Australia

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Nutrition Journal 2014, 13:44  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-44

Published: 17 May 2014

Abstract

Background

The functional food industry has experienced innovative and economic expansion, yet research into consumer perceptions of functional foods and their associated health claims is limited. Among consumers, older adults could benefit from functional foods due to age-related issues pertaining to food and health. The purpose of this research was to identify the need for information related to functional foods among older adults (≥60 years old) and to assess awareness and perceptions of health claims on functional food packages.

Methods

Community-dwelling older adults (n = 200) completed a researcher administered questionnaire designed to collect information about functional foods including current consumption, motivating factors for consumption, perceived need for information, sources of information for functional foods and awareness of health claims.

Results

Prevalence of functional food consumption among participants was 93.0%. Increased awareness and knowledge was the most commonly reported factor that would promote functional food consumption (85.5%) and 63.5% of participants wanted more information about functional foods with preferred sources being newspapers/magazines/books (68.5%) and food labels (66.1%). Participants were predominately (93.5%) aware of health claims on functional foods and those with more education were more likely to report being aware of health claims (p = 0.045).

Conclusions

Although functional food consumption among older adults in this sample is high, there is a need for further information regarding functional foods. These results inform stakeholders regarding the potential for information to influence functional food acceptance among older adult consumers.

Keywords:
Functional food; Older adult; Questionnaire; Nutrition information; Health claim