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Centrum National Supplements Survey reveals Canadians not as healthy as they think

Mississauga, Ontario, June 17, 2015 There is a significant disconnect—or gap—between how healthy Canadians think they are and their actual nutritional habits and knowledge. For example, while fruits and vegetables should make up the biggest portion of a healthy diet, well above caffeine, Canadians’ daily caffeine consumption is actually on par with their daily fruit and vegetable consumption[1].

The perception gap

According to the Centrum National Supplements Survey, there is a perception gap when it comes to the behaviour of Canadians when making nutritional choices. Three-quarters of Canadians consider themselves to be in good to excellent health; however, when probed, almost the same number (71 per cent) say they are at least somewhat concerned they might not be getting all the nutrients they need from their diets.

“For me, this data isn’t all that surprising. It falls in line with what I have been seeing for years in my practice,” says Theresa Albert, nutritional consultant and author of Ace Your Health. “Many people think they are eating a healthy diet because, for example, they ate a banana at breakfast, a salad for lunch and some broccoli with dinner—but there is a big difference between just ‘squeaking by’ and optimal health.”

The nutritional gap

Many Canadians who are eating a healthy diet are still concerned they might not be getting the right balance of vitamins and minerals they need for optimal health.

And they aren’t wrong. Vitamins and minerals are essential for good health—supporting everything from maintaining immune function and muscle function to eyesight and bone health. However, more than 10 million Canadians are not getting all of the vitamins and minerals they need from diet alone.[2]  In fact, Health Canada studies have found that many adults have inadequate intakes of magnesium, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin D[3].

According to Albert, it’s important to take control of nutritional gaps early.      

“It takes a long time for nutrient insufficiency to show up. I like to compare it to wear and tear on your favourite sneakers. When you use cells over and over again without replacing the building blocks, it will eventually lead to holes that can, in turn, lead to other problems. A simple thing like an eye twitch, for example, could be the result of stress, but it could also mean your body is too low in magnesium, the nutrient that helps release muscle tension. Prevention of little warning signs like these are much easier to manage before they become a deficiency.”

Factors like cooking and food storage techniques make it difficult to consume the right balance of nutrients from diet alone. There are also factors outside of our control—like the quality of the soil in which food is grown or the time it takes for food to get to the dinner table after it’s harvested—that can impact nutrient value.

“If all of our foods were locally and organically grown, if Canadians ate two to three times the average amount of vegetables currently consumed, if there was less stress to contend with, if there was no smog or toxic cleaners to inhale—we could get by on simply the food we eat, but that’s not reality for everyone, every day,” says Albert.

Closing the gap

The good news is that Canadians are trying to close the nutritional gap. Sixty-seven per cent of those surveyed say they’ve made changes to their diets to eat healthier in the last year, and 87 per cent say that when making their food and supplement choices they are giving at least some consideration to their daily nutrition requirements.

Albert says while there is no magic bullet, taking a multivitamin is a simple and convenient way to help fill the nutritional gaps in our diets.

“Despite our best efforts, our modern lifestyle doesn’t contribute to us consuming all the nutrients we need,” adds Albert. “Many of us lead hectic, stressful lives, live in smoggy cities or pesticide-sprayed countryside. A multivitamin, like Centrum, can help counteract these shortcomings and help ensure we are getting the small, but crucial nutrients missing from our diets.”

Bridging the nutritional gap:  five tips from Theresa Albert:

  1. The fresher, the better. Whether you choose conventional or organic produce, the fresher they are, the more nutrients they have. Produce from farmer's markets trump organic produce that has been sitting around too long.
  2. Consider raw. Incorporate raw vegetables each day along with your usual cooked favourites. Rotate colours to make sure you hit all of the phytonutrients.
  3. Incorporate a daily multivitamin. We all need support filling in the blanks in our diet with a multivitamin such as Centrum to help get the nutrients that might be missing.
  4. A handful a day. Nuts, seeds and beans contain many of the nutrients hard to obtain from fruits and vegetables like zinc, magnesium and vitamin E. A handful each day goes a long way.
  5. Make each mouthful matter. Focus on nutrient-dense superfoods so that each mouthful matters. My favorites are: chia seeds, blueberries, Brussels sprouts, cranberries and eggs.

Additional survey findings:

  • Too much of a bad thing. One in five Canadians will grab fast food on the go once or twice a week, and nearly the same number will order in once or twice a week. Similarly, one in four Canadians will eat prepared foods once or twice a week.
  • Information overload. Almost half of Canadians (48 per cent) say the news about nutrition changes so fast, they don't know what sort of vitamins or supplements they should be taking.
  • Read the label. Almost half of Canadians (42 per cent) say they may glance at the nutritional contents of the foods they eat and buy, with only 30 per cent spending a lot of time reviewing the labels.
  • A multivitamin can help. While a majority of Canadians (62 per cent) believe that taking a multivitamin is an effective way to help ensure they get their daily nutrient requirements, only 25 per cent of Canadians are currently taking a multivitamin or supplement to aid in filling their nutritional gaps.

For more information about minding the gaps in your diet, visit www.centrum.ca.

Survey Methodology

In November 2014, Hill+Knowlton Strategies’ research practice, H+K Perspectives, conducted an online survey nationally with 1,434 adult Canadians. An associated margin of error for a sample of this size is ±2.59 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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[1] Consume caffeine four times per day and fruits and vegetables (combined) four times per day—National Supplements Survey, Centrum (2014)

[2] The Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS), Cycle 2.2, Nutrition (2004)

[3] Do Canadian Adults Meet Their Nutrient Requirements through Food Intake Alone?, Health Canada (2014)