A preliminary survey of health related dietary habits in nursing students, registered nurses and older persons in Hong Kong

Mimi M.Y. Tse, Iris F.F. Benzie

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Diets rich in fresh fruits and vegetables protect against chronic, degenerative disease. This is suggested to be related to their high antioxidant content. Up to 40% of all cancers may be preventable by diet, and risk of other age-related diseases, such as heart disease, dementia, diabetes, has a strong dietary link also. Incidence of age-related disease is increasing, for most there is no cure, and treatment is difficult, expensive and often ineffective. Therefore disease prevention is a global issue of increasing importance. Today's student nurses are tomorrow's primary healthcare professionals and role models for health promotion and good dietary habits. However, in a cross-sectional non-experimental dietary study of 274 nursing students (228 females, 46 males), results showed low daily intake of fluid, dairy products and fruits and vegetables (<2 portions) in the majority, and 40% never took breakfast. Interestingly, study of dietary habits of registered nurses yielded similar findings. Of 251 nurses (208 female, 43 male), >50% reported dining out and eating fast food regularly. Skipping meals, fewer family meals, and high intake of fast foods are habits that are likely to result in lower intake of =healthy' food including fruits, vegetables and dairy products. Sixty-five percent of nurses studied ate <2 portions of fruits and vegetables per day, a worryingly low intake when the recommended intake for optimal health is 5 or more/day,and 63% took no milk or other dairy products. Dairy products are a major source of dietary calcium, and low consumption of calcium is associated with higher risk of osteoporosis and bone fracture in later life. Interestingly, the self-perceived nutritional status was deemed satisfactory by most nursing students and nurses, even though study findings indicate dietary practices are far from optimal. Thirty-six older persons in the local Chinese community were surveyed on dietary-related behaviour and lifestyle. Results showed that 40% lived alone and ate alone on a regular basis. They took few fruits and vegetable per day, no dairy or bean curd products, and inadequate fluid. Half were overweight or obese. Results indicate low intake of antioxidant-rich food among nursing students, nurses and older persons in Hong Kong. Nurses must be trained to be knowledgeable about the relationship between diet and health and be ready and willing to lead by example, and therefore diet and health inter-relationships should be made explicit components of the nursing curriculum. Also, it is important to communicate to members of the public the importance of diet in prevention of age-related disease and promotion of healthy ageing.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTrends in Nursing Research
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


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