A survey of perceptions and health beliefs associated with dairy products and their dairy/lactose free alternatives: A comparison between men and women
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Background: With the changing patterns in today’s dairy consumption and the popularity of food avoidance, this study aimed to explore the differences in consumer perceptions and health beliefs of dairy products and their dairy/lactose free alternatives between men and women. Methods: A cross-sectional online survey of an opportunistic sample of 65 adults over the age of 19 years was undertaken. Questions on their consumption of dairy products, dairy free alternative products, health beliefs around these products and perceptions of lactose free or dairy allergy were explored. Results: Dairy avoidance to some extent was reported by 23.1% (n=15) of respondents. This was not statistically significant between men and women. Suspected Lactose Intolerance or Dairy Allergy was reported by 13.8% (n=9). This was more prevalent in women (n=6, 16.2%) than men (n=3,10.7%) and younger adults, although not statistically significant. Those with perceived Lactose Intolerance or Dairy Allergy are more likely to have less favourable health beliefs towards dairy products. 49% (n=32) of respondents have purchased at least one dairy/lactose free product in the last 6 months for reasons other than intolerance/allergy. Women are more likely to choose these products to aid weight loss and add variety to their diet. Conclusion: The findings of this study highlights the ongoing confusion of the terms allergy and intolerance in the public domain. There is a need for public health initiatives to target 24-44 year old age group in the health benefits of low fat dairy products. Furthermore, it highlights the need for dietitians to work with the media to deliver consistent evidence-based messages regarding dairy products and to work with the food industry in the production of fortified dairy/lactose alternatives to offer the essential nutrients provided by dairy products.
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