Bad eating habits linked to poor knowledge

A balanced and diversified diet allows the body to develop harmoniously and maintain good health, leading to the prevention of certain chronic diseases. However, bad eating habits continue to spread throughout the world and particularly in Morocco, where the change in the lifestyle of the population inevitably leads to a nutritional transition. But while Moroccans adopted a traditional diet, based on cereals and legumes, vegetables and fruits, it is clear that they are gradually moving towards a diet comprising more animal products.

Nutrition being a priority in public health, eight Moroccan researchers from the University Hassan II of Casablanca looked into the question by conducting a study. They thus evaluated the knowledge of nutritional recommendations for certain major foods, with the aim of determining the factors associated with the food practices and knowledge of the adult population of the city of Casablanca.

To do this, they conducted a survey of 731 participants from the white capital. Data collected using a questionnaire containing socio-demographic characteristics, food frequency and questions to assess nutritional knowledge. The random and exhaustive sample was based on the 2014 national census and data provided by the High Commission for Planning (HCP). The general characteristics of the sample of the study population showed that of the 719 subjects, 373 (51.9%) were male and 346 (48.1%) female. Moreover, the overall prevalence of overweight and obesity was 29.6% and 21.0%, respectively. The researchers add that obesity was much higher in women than in men (35.0% versus 8.0%).

Raising awareness to develop solid nutritional knowledge

It thus emerges that there is a “close” link between poor knowledge and a bad eating habit. “Individuals, who did not consume according to nutritional recommendations, in particular with regard to the consumption of red meats, chicken and fish, reported erroneous opinions in relation to these recommendations”, explains the study, published on June 21 in the Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism review. “The adjustment by a number of socio-demographic variables shows that this was observed regardless of the age” of the people surveyed, continues the same source.

“One of the main causes of nutritional problems is the lack of nutritional knowledge leading to poor eating behavior. Knowledge is one of the factors necessary to modify and improve eating behavior and, subsequently, to build a healthy diet to prevent disease,” the researchers point out. For the latter, “nutrition education can improve nutritional knowledge and practices”.

“Studies that assess knowledge and its associations with dietary behaviors or attitudes can contribute to a situation analysis by helping to determine existing nutrition knowledge, attitudes and habits, to better understand how people eat and other factors that may influence their eating habits. And they can, therefore, provide useful information and contribute to the effective planning of targeted nutrition programs and projects,” the study adds.

Its authors believe that “positively influencing nutritional intake and promoting healthy habits is a challenge for both developed and developing countries”. “Our results showed an association between poor nutritional knowledge and poor dietary habits, further suggesting that the study population should benefit from educational interventions and awareness campaigns to develop strong nutritional knowledge,” they argue. “Knowledge cannot be considered alone, but it is certainly one of the very important factors influencing nutrition,” they conclude.

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