Subject: Diet quality
Background: Nut consumption at the population level remains low despite the well-documented benefits of their consumption, including their cardioprotective effects. Studies have suggested that advice from health professionals may be a means to increase nut consumption levels. Understanding how nuts are perceived by the public and health professionals, along with understanding the public's perceptions of motivators of and deterrents to consuming nuts, may inform the development of initiatives to improve on these low levels of consumption. The aim of this cross-sectional study was to compare perceptions of nuts among three groups of health professionals (dietitians, general practioners, and practice nurses) and the general public in New Zealand (NZ), along with motivators of and deterrents to consuming nuts amongst the general public and their experiences of receiving advice around nut consumption. Methods: The NZ electoral roll was used to identify dietitians, general practitioners (GPs), and practice nurses, based on their free-text occupation descriptions, who were then invited to complete a questionnaire with 318, 292, and 149 respondents respectively. 1,600 members of the general public were randomly selected from the roll with 710 respondents. Analyses were performed using chi-squared tests to look at differences in categorical variables and linear regression for differences in other variables between the four survey groups. Results: Although there were significant differences between the four groups regarding the perceptions of nuts, in general there was agreement that nuts are healthy, high in protein and fat, are filling, and some nuts are high in selenium. We noted frequent agreement that the general public participants would consume more if nuts: improved health (67%), were more affordable (60%), or improved the nutrient content (59%) and balance of fats (58%) within their diets. Over half the respondents reported they would eat more nuts if they were advised to do so by a dietitian or doctor, despite less than 4% reporting they had received such advice. The most frequently selected deterrents to increasing nut consumption were: cost (67%), potential weight gain (66%), and leading to eating too much fat (63%). Discussion: It is concerning that so few among the general public report receiving advice to consume more nuts from health professionals, especially given their apparent responsiveness to such advice. Health professionals could exploit the motivators of nut consumption, while also addressing the deterrents, to promote nut intake. These factors should also be addressed in public health messages to encourage regular nut consumption among the public. Educational initiatives could also be used to improve the nutritional knowledge of GPs and practice nurses with regard to nuts, although even dietitians were unsure of their knowledge in some cases.