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Quebecers’ diets have not improved in the past 15 years

Québec City, December 6, 2018 – Despite countless public awareness campaigns on the importance of healthy eating habits, a study led by researchers at Université Laval shows a lack of improvement in Quebecers' diets. According to the study published today on the Canadian Journal of Cardiology website, diet quality among adults in Québec doesn't even earn a passing grade, with an overall score of 55%.

The study was conducted between August 2015 and April 2017, and involved 1,147 subjects from five administrative regions of the province. Participants completed an online questionnaire three different times, detailing their food and beverage consumption over the past 24 hours. Researchers then compared the data they collected to the recommendations in Canada's Food Guide.

Their analysis revealed that only 24% of respondents achieved the recommended intake of vegetables and fruit, barely 12% ate enough whole grain products, and only 39% consumed the recommended number of servings of milk and alternatives. Additionally, 81% of respondents had a higher salt intake than recommended and 74% consumed more than the recommended daily amount of saturated fat.

The global diet quality score among adults in Quebec, which reflects the overall quality of food choices compared to Canada's Food Guide recommendations, is 55%. This score is below the Canadian average of 59% measured in 2004.

A study conducted previously by the same group of researchers suggests that Quebecers are largely unaware of the situation: 75% of respondents thought their diets were good, very good, or excellent, while only 25% thought they were fair or bad. «We note that people tend to overestimate the quality of their diet», said Benoît Lamarche, professor in the School of Nutrition at Université Laval's Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences (FSAA) and lead author of the study published today.

Information campaigns aiming to change dietary habits by raising public awareness and encouraging accountability have not produced noticeable results, noted Professor Lamarche, who is also a researcher at Université Laval's Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods (INAF). «Nutrition education is not enough. We need to diversify our efforts, especially by tackling food environments. If vulnerable communities are given greater access to healthy food, that may help them adopt healthier dietary habits.»

Researchers will be able to test this hypothesis with the NutriQuébec project set to kick off in a few months. «This project, which is part of the Québec government's preventive health policy, aims to track the food choices of tens of thousands of adults over several years», explained the researcher. «That will allow us to measure the impact of government measures, for example a possible sugar tax, on Quebecers' dietary choices.»

Researchers at Université Laval, Université de Sherbrooke, UQTR, and Université de Montréal collaborated to this study. In addition to Benoît Lamarche, authors of the study from Université Laval are Didier Brassard, Catherine Laramée, Louise Corneau, Charles Couillard, Sophie Desroches, Véronique Provencher, Marie-Claude Vohl, Julie Robitaille, Simone Lemieux (FSAA and INAF), and Catherine Bégin (School of Psychology and INAF).

Benoît Lamarche, PhD, FAHA
Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences
Institute of Nutrition and Functional Foods (INAF) 
Université Laval

Jean-François Huppé
Media Relations
Université Laval