Understanding What Helps or Hinders Rural Adults in Eating Fruits and Vegetables

Jenn Hoskins
29th June, 2024

Understanding What Helps or Hinders Rural Adults in Eating Fruits and Vegetables

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In rural north-west Victoria, Australia, only 48% of adults met the recommended fruit intake, and just 19% met the vegetable intake recommendation
  • Non-smokers and non-drinkers were more likely to meet fruit intake recommendations
  • Factors like living with more people and using community gardens helped increase vegetable consumption
  • Barriers to fruit intake included preference for other snacks and concerns about sugar, while barriers to vegetable intake included lack of time and perceptions of unachievable guidelines
Understanding the barriers and facilitators to fruit and vegetable intake is crucial for developing strategies to improve diet quality and reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases. A recent study conducted by Deakin University[1] explored these factors in rural Australian adults using a mixed methods approach. This study is particularly significant given the established link between low fruit and vegetable consumption and increased risk of chronic diseases[2]. The study analyzed data from the 2019 Active Living Census, which included responses from 13,464 adults in north-west Victoria, Australia. The researchers aimed to identify barriers and facilitators to meeting the recommended daily intake of two servings of fruit and five servings of vegetables. They used multivariate logistic regression analyses to explore these associations and employed machine learning to analyze open-ended responses about barriers. The findings revealed that only 48% of participants met the fruit intake recommendation, and a mere 19% met the vegetable intake recommendation. Factors that facilitated fruit consumption were mainly at the individual level. For instance, participants who had never smoked were more than twice as likely to meet the fruit intake recommendations (OR: 2.12, 95% CI: 1.83-2.45), and those who did not drink alcohol also showed a higher likelihood (OR: 1.47, 95% CI: 1.31-1.64). For vegetable consumption, facilitators were found at various levels: individual (e.g., former smokers, OR: 1.48, 95% CI: 1.21-1.80), social-environmental (e.g., living with three or more people, OR: 1.41, 95% CI: 1.22-1.63), and physical-environmental (e.g., using community gardens, OR: 1.20, 95% CI: 1.07-1.34). The qualitative analysis highlighted that barriers to fruit consumption included a preference for other snacks and concerns about sugar content, whereas barriers to vegetable consumption included lack of time and perceptions that the guidelines were unachievable. Notably, barriers and facilitators differed by gender. Females reported barriers related to having a more varied diet, while males cited a dislike for the taste of vegetables. These findings are consistent with earlier studies that have highlighted the importance of individual behaviors and attitudes in dietary choices. For example, a study analyzing data from the National Cancer Institute's 2007 Food Attitudes and Behaviors Survey found that low water intake was associated with several unhealthful behaviors, such as low fruit and vegetable consumption and lack of exercise[3]. This suggests that individual health behaviors are interconnected and that improving one aspect, like water intake, could potentially influence others, such as fruit and vegetable consumption. Moreover, the study from Deakin University aligns with previous research indicating that social and physical environments play a crucial role in dietary behaviors. A narrative review of environmental determinants of nutrition behaviors concluded that socio-cultural factors, such as what is considered socially acceptable to eat, may be more influential than physical factors like food availability[4]. This is supported by the finding that living with more people and using community gardens were significant facilitators for vegetable consumption. The Deakin University study provides valuable insights into the multi-level barriers and facilitators to fruit and vegetable intake in rural settings. It underscores the need for comprehensive strategies that address individual, social, and physical-level barriers to improve dietary habits. By understanding these factors, public health interventions can be better tailored to promote healthier eating patterns and reduce the burden of chronic diseases in rural populations.



Main Study

1) Identifying the barriers and facilitators to fruit and vegetable consumption in rural Australian adults: a mixed methods analysis.

Published 28th June, 2024


Related Studies

2) Modelling the impact of a healthy diet on cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality.


3) Behaviors and attitudes associated with low drinking water intake among US adults, Food Attitudes and Behaviors Survey, 2007.


4) Environmental determinants of healthy eating: in need of theory and evidence.


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