Background Whole grain consumption has been linked to reduced risks of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and various types of cancer. Almost a third of UK adults and children do not consume whole grains at all, and as little as 5% of the population reach the recommended three portions per day. Little has been done to explore whole grain consumption correlates in the UK - with no studies on young adults. This age group has been found to be on the lower end of whole grain intake in studies at the national level. This study aimed to explore the awareness, consumption patterns, barriers and possible facilitators for whole grain consumption in a sample of UK young adults.
Methods Participants were 20 students aged 20-35 years old of various ethnicities. Dietary patterns and awareness about whole grains were measured using picture-assisted 24-hour recalls followed by questionnaires. Focus group discussions were conducted, where awareness, barriers and facilitators for consumption were discussed. Participants were also educated on health benefits, available varieties, identification of whole grain products, and provided with sample products to try. After 2 weeks the participants were followed-up using picture-assisted 24-hour recalls and questionnaires.
Results The results of the study show an improvement in consumption, awareness of health benefits, identification, and acceptance of whole grain foods among participants at follow up by 0.25 servings/week, 41%, 50%, and 8.5% respectively. The majority of participants reported bread and cereal products to be their favourite varieties. The top barriers to whole grain consumption appeared to be: sensory properties, higher price, lower availability, and lack of awareness of health benefits. Suggested facilitators of consumption were educational campaigns, a standardised whole grain product stamp, price reductions and offers, and increased availability and varieties. Asian ethnicity, female gender, home eating, and healthier lifestyles were observed to be positively associated with some whole grain intake correlates, but with no statistical significance.
Conclusion This study identified barriers and facilitators to whole grain consumption in UK young adults. More research should address whole grain intake correlates and interventions. This would encourage governmental, health service, and industrial action to improve whole grain awareness, availability, and consumption.
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