Quebec lifestyle data is extremely important to scientists and public health actors. To set up and run campaigns that will bear fruit and affect the health of the population, we must have a portrait of the Quebec diet! And valuable data was clearly missing until the NutriQuébec survey was launched! Interview with NutriQuébec researcher Benoît Lamarche!
Benoît Lamarche, researcher in charge of NutriQuébec
You are a professor at the School of Nutrition and Scientific Director of the NUTRISS Center at Laval University, what observation do you make about the evolution of Quebec eating habits over the last ten years?
Discussions between friends and the media suggest that people are more concerned than ever about healthy eating, that vegetarianism and the consumption of local and “organic” foods are becoming increasingly popular. This is probably the case in certain subgroups of the population, but these findings probably do not reflect the reality for the population of Quebec as a whole. Indeed, data from our team suggest that the overall quality of the diet on average among adults in Quebec is far from optimal. However, it should be noted that we have very little data on this topic, hence the importance of a project like NutriQuébec for the future health of the population!
Do you have initial data on changing eating habits since the onset of the pandemic, have we eaten better or worse for a year?
The NutriQuébec project allowed us to measure in real time or almost the impact of the first isolation last year on adult eating habits in Quebec. Our results published earlier this year in the prestigious American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that the overall quality of the diet improved slightly during the first months of isolation last April and May, compared to before the pandemic. We know that cooking meals and eating less frequently has a generally favorable impact on the quality of the diet. We can assume that the slight improvement in food quality in Quebec at the onset of the pandemic is attributed, at least in part, to the fact that people ate more meals at home during the first months of isolation.
The prevalence of obesity continues to rise, are health professionals intervening in the right way to curb growth?
Obesity is a complex problem that goes beyond the calories consumed. Curbing the growth of obesity requires strong interventions in all spheres of society, interventions which will promote the consumption of healthy foods and which will also affect the overconsumption of low quality nutritional foods. Such interventions should target the poorest and most vulnerable populations, who are most at risk of obesity and its health consequences. In this regard, health professionals have a key role to play!
In an age where high fat (ketogenic) diets are more popular than ever, do you believe this is an effective and safe approach to the health of individuals?
Increasingly rigorous studies show that consuming a ketogenic diet causes rapid weight loss. Certainly there is no wonder here, given that this restrictive approach aims to eliminate a large percentage of our daily calorie intake, carbohydrates. However, such rigorous studies show that the weight loss generated by all diets aimed at a significant reduction in calories fades over time. And this is true regardless of what restrictive approach is used. Again, no wonder, as long-term maintenance of non-standard eating habits (here we are talking about for years!) Is proving to be a big challenge …
What is the most recommended type of food, based on recent research?
If there is one food model that is unanimous in the scientific community, it is the Mediterranean diet. Indeed, several hundred scientific articles published each year worldwide demonstrate the benefits of this diet model. Of course, in Quebec, we can not eat exactly like the southern Italians, Greeks or North Africans, for whom the Mediterranean diet has adapted to the regional and cultural realities that characterize them. But … to consume more vegetables and fruits, whole grain products, legumes and nuts and less processed products, does that mean anything to you? !
Exactly, is the Canada Food Guide, updated in 2019, a good public health tool? Should it be used more by the population?
The new Canadian Food Guide has received quite a favorable reception from scientists in Canada. Even if this new guide does not give an example of the Mediterranean diet as such, the recommendations found there strangely resemble this diet model, while adapting as closely as possible to the Canadian food context. The Canada Food Guide 2019 also places great emphasis on healthy eating habits to be promoted, such as finding time to eat, recognizing hunger signals, cooking more often, and eating in good company. This is a great innovation that recognizes that healthy food depends not only on what is on the plate, but also on “how” we eat what is on the plate. !
That said, we have very little information on Quebec population compliance with these new nutritional recommendations and their impact on health. This is why the NutriQuébec project is so important to the health of Quebecers and will help answer these questions!
► Enrolling in NutriQuébec is an important contribution to advancing our knowledge of the Quebec lifestyle. The survey lasts only 90 minutes a year and you get a nutrition report after completing the online questionnaires. Want to help health actors in Quebec? Subscribe to nutriquebec.com