WASHINGTON — There is a significant disconnect between whether Americans believe they are getting sufficient nutrients and the reality of their diets, show the findings of the International Food Information Council’s Functional Foods Consumer Survey.

“Consumer perceptions are not consistent with the reality of their dietary intake,” said Sarah Romotsky, a registered dietitian and associate director of health and wellness at IFIC, during a webinar presentation Tuesday. “Sometimes they think it’s adequate when it’s not.”


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For nutrients such as vitamin D, 68% perceive to be getting enough vs. the 32% who actually are, when measured by the Dietary Reference Intakes recommended by experts. There is also a stark disconnect in the case of potassium (61% vs. less than 3%) and fiber (67% vs. 5%).

But the opposite is true of B vitamins, with a smaller percentage perceiving that they consume an adequate amount (60%) vs. the percentage that actually do (90%).

“This is a testament to [B vitamin-] fortified foods, where consumers may not realize the added value,” Romotsky said.

The study also reveals gaps in knowledge and consumption of functional components like omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, flavonoids and zeaxanthin, with one-third or less of the population saying they’re not consuming enough of these components to meet their needs or to get a health benefit.

Still, consumer interest in learning about functional foods — defined by IFIC as foods that have benefits beyond basic nutrition, such as blueberries, yogurt, fortified milk, bread and cereal — remains high.

Read more: IFIC: Parents Focus on Kids' Health, Neglect Their Own

Almost nine in 10 (86%) are interested in learning more about these foods. Similar to 2011, almost half of consumers (45%) are “very interested.”

In addition to lacking knowledge about these foods, consumers cited other obstacles to consumption. When presented with a list of 16 potential reasons for not consuming more of these foods, price was the most common barrier selected by respondents, with more than half identifying it as a major reason.

Other barriers include skepticism of manufacturers’ motives for adding health components to products, preference for the purity of basic foods, and taste.

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