Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Assessment of the Knowledge and Beliefs regarding Probiotic Use

Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Assessment of the Knowledge and Beliefs regarding Probiotic Use

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Background: Although there is mounting evidence of the benefits of probiotics, many consumers are unaware of the definition of probiotics and are unable to state which foods contain these live microorganisms. Purpose: This study attempted to determine if participants were able to state the definition of probiotics, whether they utilize these products regularly and if they would consider consuming probiotics if it were recommended by a health professional. Methods: The subjects were evaluated via an 18-item questionnaire. A total of 335 surveys were returned completed. Results: This study demonstrates that 38.5% of respondents had heard of probiotics, but only 27.2% stated that they knew what probiotics are. Those participants who stated they knew what probiotics are were more likely to try them when recommended. Participants who were able w state the benefit of probiotics, consumed them in greater frequency. Discussion: The results of this study support the hypothesis that many consumers are unaware of the definition of probiotics and are unable to state which foods contain these live microorganisms. Translation to Health Education Practice: These results indicate a need for further education of the general public in regards to the definition, benefits, and sources of probiotics.

BACKGROUND

Probiotics are defined as "live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host." (1) People have consumed probiotics in the form of fermented milk for thousands of years with the belief that ingestion provides health benefits. (2) There is growing interest by both health professionals and consumers in the potential health benefits of probiotic foods. Between 2002 and 2007, there were more than 800 peer-reviewed articles published pertaining to probiotics, while there were only 25 articles in the previous 25 years. (3)

Because the relationship between diet and health is becoming increasingly recognized, the market for foods that promote health is thriving. There is an increasing number of probiotic products on the market and consumers are at a disadvantage in attempting to choose between them. (4) Myriad studies have indicated a relationship between intake of foods containing probiotics and various health benefits. (5-12) Unfortunately, these products may be underutilized due to a lack of public familiarity with probiotic products and low awareness of their benefits. It has been shown that following an education program, most participants show an interest in increasing intake of functional foods including yogurt. It was also reported that age, gender and health benefit awareness influence participants' intention to change dietary habits. (13)

In addition, a previous study reported that providing health benefit information concerning a probiotic juice increased consumer acceptance. (14) In a study by Wardle, there was a strong association between nutrition knowledge and intake of fruits, vegetables and fats. (15) This study concluded that nutrition knowledge makes a strong contribution to a person's meeting nutritional recommendations. The Health Belief Model by Becker hypothesizes that individuals are more likely to change a behavior if they recognize that they are threatened by a negative health condition and if changing their behavior will provide benefits that exceed the costs. (16-18) Therefore, it is important for consumers to learn of the benefits related to probiotic consumption in order for behavior change to occur.

Unfortunately, little research is available to show that the information regarding the benefits of probiotics is reaching the general public. Hekmat and Koba undertook a study to determine the probiotic knowledge and consumption patterns of Canadian consumers. They determined that convenience, price, taste and health benefits influenced consumption of probiotic foods. They also noted that decreased familiarity with these products was associated with decreased awareness of their health benefits, which the authors concluded may result in decreased intake. …

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