Historical Trends in Attitudes, Knowledge and Behaviours of Canadian Consumers: Analysis of Sugar Tracking Studies from 1998-2007

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Horne, Erin
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Mount Saint Vincent University
To date there has been limited research that has assessed the changing attitudes and perceptions of sugar. While the assumption could be made that public perception regarding sugar intake has become more negative, this has not been determined through research. Recent interest in food labeling, guidelines for sugars intake, popular diets, and the role of sugarsweetened beverages in the obesity epidemic have generated media attention and initiated research that has focused on sugars intake and health. The Canadian Sugar Institute (CSI) has been conducting research on tracking consumer behaviour, attitudes, and knowledge of sugar and sugar substitutes within the context of a number of health issues. Data from the tracking studies collected in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2007 have been analyzed for temporal changes in behaviour, attitude, and knowledge towards sugar consumption and for predictors of behaviour and attitude towards sugar consumption. The Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) provided a theoretical framework for understanding the influence of external factors on behaviour. Behaviour, attitude, and knowledge index scores were tabulated for each survey year. Tukey’s multiple range T-test showed temporal changes in mean behaviour scores over the time span of data collection. From 1998 to 2007 the behaviour index score (BIS) decreased by 15.7% indicating consumer’s behaviour had become more negative as respondents adopted ways to decrease sugars consumption and dieting behaviours. Tukey’s multiple range T-test showed temporal changes in mean knowledge index score (KIS) and mean attitude index score (AIS) however the magnitude of the differences were small and mean scores remained fairly constant over the data collection period. When assessed for predictors of sugar consumption behaviour regression analysis showed that the strongest negative predictor of BIS was time and the strongest positive predictor was AIS. Other positive but less robust predictors were being male, having a low income, living in households with >5 people, and being a resident of Quebec, while being from an older age group had a negative impact. The regression model accounted for ~24% of the variance in BIS. When predictors of attitude towards sugar consumption was assessed regression analysis showed that the strongest positive predictor was KIS, while being a resident of Quebec was the most important negative predictor. Other positive but less robust predictors were survey year 2002, being male, being unemployed, and being from a younger age group. The regression model accounted for ~20% of the variance in AIS. Changing subjective norms proposed within the TRA may account for the remainder of the variance in BIS and could explain the temporal changes in BIS without the same changes in AIS. External influences such as media messages, changing public health policy, and food labeling may be impacting on behaviour towards sugar consumption among Canadian consumers.
Sweetners - Health aspects , Sugar - Public opinion , Sugar , Sweetners , Obesity