Survey shows 76% see benefits of functional food

by Jeff Gelski
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WASHINGTON — More than three fourths (76%) of consumers said functional foods, or food that may promote health, may have an impact on their health when they consume them, according to the 2011 IFIC Functional Foods/Foods for Health Survey released Aug. 4 by the Washington-based International Food Information Council. The top health concern was cardiovascular disease, cited by 46% of survey respondents when asked to name their top three health concerns. It was followed by weight (32%) and cancer (22%).

The most popular foods and food components that Americans look for to improve or maintain health are fruits and vegetables, named by 70% of survey respondents when asked unaided to name their top three health concerns. Fruits and vegetables were followed by fish/fish oil (18%), dairy (16%), whole grains (10%) and herbs and spices (10%).

For heart health, 85% said they were aware of the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. For bone health, 92% said they were aware of calcium’s benefits and 90% said they were aware of the benefits of vitamin D. For overall well-being, 87% said they were aware of protein’s benefits and 86% said they were aware of the benefits of vitamins. For digestive health, 81% said they were aware of probiotics’ benefits and 79% said they were aware of fiber’s benefits.

The survey defined functional foods as foods or food components that may provide benefits beyond basic nutrition. Among survey respondents, 46% said they are very interested in learning more about foods with benefits and 41% said they are somewhat interested.

Cogent Research, Cambridge, Mass., conducted the survey, the seventh version dating back to 1998. The 2011 survey randomly sampled 1,000 U.S. adults. The margin of error was plus or minus 3%. For a copy of the 2011 IFIC Functional Foods/Foods for Health Survey, visit www.FoodInsight.org.

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