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Perceptions and Knowledge of Nuts amongst Health Professionals in New Zealand

Brown RC, Yong LC, Gray AR, Tey SL, Chisholm A, Leong SL. Perceptions and Knowledge of Nuts amongst Health Professionals in New Zealand. Nutrients. 2017 Mar 1;9(3). pii: E220. doi: 10.3390/nu9030220.

Despite their nutritional value, population-level nut consumption remains low. Studies suggest that individuals would eat more nuts on their doctor’s advice, making health professionals potentially important for promoting nut consumption. This cross-sectional study aimed to examine the perceptions and knowledge of nuts and the predictors of nut promotion among health professionals in New Zealand. Dietitians, general practitioners (GPs), and practice nurses were identified from the Electoral Roll and invited to complete a questionnaire (n = 318, 292, and 149 respondents respectively). Over one-fifth of GPs and practice nurses believed that eating nuts could increase blood cholesterol concentrations and cause weight gain. The most common perceptions overall were that nuts are healthy; high in protein, fat, and calories; and are satiating. Nut consumption was recommended for reasons relating to these perceptions and because of nuts’ selenium content. Conversely, reasons for suggesting the consumption of fewer nuts included that they were high in calories and fat, would cause weight gain, and concerns regarding allergies and cost. All groups of health professionals were more likely to promote nut consumption if they perceived nuts to reduce the risk of diabetes (all p ≤ 0.034). Education could improve health professionals’ knowledge regarding the effects of nut consumption on blood cholesterol and body weight, alongside other health benefits, which should improve the advice given to patients and may thereby increase nut consumption.