57 per cent of Singaporeans are on a diet

If you look around to see what your colleagues are eating at lunchtime, it is probably not unusual to find someone who is on a diet.

In fact, a survey has found that about one in two, or 57 per cent, of Singaporeans follow diets that limit or omit certain ingredients, such as fats, sugar or meat.

The Nielsen Global Health and Ingredient-Sentiment Survey released yesterday polled more than 30,000 people online in 63 countries, including 514 people from Singapore.

But a smaller ratio of Singaporeans go on diets compared with the average of 64 per cent globally and 72 per cent in the Asia Pacific.

Dietitian Derrick Ong of Eat Right Nutrition Consultancy told The Straits Times this could reflect higher nutrition literacy in some Asian countries, especially Japan and South Korea.

"They're more savvy about nutrition information, which is also more readily given by food manufacturers there," he said.

The top three diets Singaporeans stick to are low/no fat (28 per cent); low/no sugar (25 per cent) and low/no carbohydrate (20 per cent).

Said Joan Koh, managing director of Nielsen Singapore and Malaysia: "The rising obesity rates, increasing number of adults living with diabetes and progressively less active lifestyles are critical motivations which nudged Singaporeans to relook their eating options and habits."

But Mr Ong also warned that not all special diets are beneficial.

For instance, paleo diets - which are high in protein, low in carbohydrates and feature unprocessed foods - aim to return to a way of eating that mimics how early humans ate, in the belief that our bodies are better adapted for this diet.

But this has not been scientifically proven, he noted.

"Public education is important. Many people are still clueless about what to look out for in food labels," he said. "People also need to be discerning of what is just a fad and what is sound advice."

The survey also found what most Singapore respondents try to avoid are monosodium glutamate, or MSG, and artificial preservatives.

More than half the respondents said they were willing to pay more for food and drinks that did not have undesirable ingredients.

Ms Koh said more food retailers should offer healthier options.

"Adopting the right strategies in this growing health and wellness space will increase the chance for both food manufacturers and retailers to build a loyal shopper base and drive profits for their businesses."


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