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The prevention of osteoporosis by nutritional phytoestrogens

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Acceptance levels of IF-enriched foods in Europe

Within the PHYTOS project work a survey was conducted to describe the acceptance of IF-enriched food products that were not yet on the market. The results were based on focus group interviews with women in Italy, France, Finland, the UK and the Netherlands.

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Isoflavones (IF) are a subgroup of phytoestrogens and are mainly contained in soy and soy products. They are believed to have beneficial properties and the potential role of natural phytoestrogens in osteoporosis prevention among postmenopausal women living in Europe, was investigated. A one-year, large-scale, multicentre, randomised and controlled intervention trial was conducted in three European countries. The trial used specially designed IF-enriched foods and rigorous assessments were made of the changes in bone metabolism. The acceptability of these foods among the target population (women 45 years of age and older) was addressed. The expectations created by different nutritional claims were also investigated. This was done by conducting a survey in five EU Member States. A self-administered questionnaire on attitudes, social influence, barriers and acceptance towards IF foods was developed. In total, the questionnaire was completed by 2 500 women between 45-70 years of age. The mean age of the women was 56.1 years. Stages of change towards reduction of osteoporosis through dietary adjustment showed that most women were in pre-contemplation (44%) and maintenance (39%). The results showed that breakfast was the preferred time for consuming IF-enriched foods (70%). According to respondents the most suitable foods for fortification were dairy products, bread and fruit juices. The most important properties for products are detailed information, a pleasant taste and availability in supermarkets. Reluctance to consume IF-enriched food can be explained by various concerns, social influences and barriers, and self-efficacy. There are also differences between countries in the level of acceptance of IF-enriched foods. This indicates differences in perception between the five countries. Therefore, with regard to product development and marketing, it is vital that strategies and products are designed that take into account cultural diversity. Further research is to be undertaken to determine whether the focus should be on international differences or cross-cultural segments.

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