It is well-established that dietary intake is a critical factor in cancer survivorship, but less is known about the eating habits of those who have been previously diagnosed with cancer and how actual eating habits may be consistent or inconsistent with patients’ perceptions of those habits.
To get at this issue, researchers have now attempted to compare the eating habits of adult cancer survivors in the U.S. with those patients’ self-perception of diet quality. The results have been published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The researchers found that cancer survivors’ actual diet quality was not consistent with their perceived diet quality. Specifically, cancer survivors tended to be incorrect about the amount of empty calories they consumed, as well as the amount of fruits and vegetables.
Data on patients’ age and race also helped to reveal more details of this inconsistency in actual and perceived diet quality. For instance, older people were more likely to overestimate the quality of their diets. Similarly, compared to non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics were more likely to perceive their diets as being of higher quality than they actually were.
Based on their findings, the authors of this study suggest that cancer patients could benefit from customized nutritional interventions that help them understand the true quality of their diets. These kinds of programs could improve nutrition in this patient population, as well as overall health and survivorship. Personalizing these interventions may also offer physicians opportunities to minimize health disparities.
Xue, H. et al. (2020). Discrepancy between perceived diet quality and actual diet quality among US adult cancer survivors. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41430-020-0619-2