Eating healthily: a task for health education?


Unité de recherche INSIDE, Université du Luxembourg – Campus Walferdange, Route de Diekirch – B.P. 2, L- 7220 Walferdange, Luxembourg
Claus Vögele Member of AgroFOOD industry hi-tech’s Scientific Advisory Board

Most health education programmes designed to support a healthy diet embark on large-scale information campaigns relying on the assumption that information and knowledge will lead to behaviour change. This so-called information appeal is frequently supplemented by vivid descriptions of the health risks associated with an unhealthy diet (fear appeal). As important as information and fear appeals are in appropriate doses, they only constitute the prerequisite to what is supposed to become a long lasting behaviour change. A popular theme for health education campaigns over the last decades has been the diet-heart hypotheses. This is based on evidence that coronary heart disease is associated with raised cholesterol levels, and high blood pressure (essential hypertension) with a diet high in salt (sodium). For every one per cent change in serum cholesterol levels, there is a three per cent change in the likelihood of developing coronary heart disease. A long-term (five-year) change of five to six mmHg in diastolic blood pressure (which has been linked to sodium intake) can reduce the chances of stroke by 35 to 40 per cent and of coronary heart disease by 20 to 25 per cent. Clearly, t ...