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Open Access Open Badges Research

Understanding why adult participants at the World Senior Games choose a healthy diet

Ray M Merrill1* and Eric C Shields2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Science, College of Health and Human Performance, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA

2 Department of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Science, College of Biology and Agriculture, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA

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Nutrition Journal 2003, 2:16  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-2-16

Published: 22 November 2003



Identifying those seniors most likely to adopt a healthy diet, the relative importance they place on certain perceived benefits associated with a healthy diet, and whether these perceived benefits are associated with selected demographic, lifestyle, and health history variables is important for directing effective dietary health promotion programs.


Analyses are based on a cross-sectional convenience sample of 670 seniors aged 50 years and older at the 2002 World Senior Games in St. George, Utah. Data are assessed using frequencies, bivariate analysis, analysis of variance, and multiple logistic regression analysis.


Fruit and vegetable consumption was significantly higher in individuals aged 70–79, in women, in those not overweight or obese, and in those with excellent overall health. Dietary fiber consumption was significantly higher in former or never smokers, current and previous alcohol drinkers, in those not overweight or obese, and in those with excellent health. The strongest motivating factors identified for adopting a healthy diet were to improve the quality of life, to increase longevity, and to prevent disease. Of intermediate importance were the need to feel a sense of control and to satisfy likes or dislikes. Least important were the desire to experience a higher level of spirituality, social reasons, and peer acceptance.


Seniors who have adopted a healthy diet are more likely to have chosen that behavior because of perceived health benefits than for personal and social benefits. Overweight or obese individuals and those in poor health were less likely to be engaged in healthy eating behavior and require special attention by dieticians and public health professionals.