Resource Centre Nazeeia Sayed is the Unilever Nutrition and Health manager for Africa

Nazeeia is a registered Dietician and a proud mum of seven year old daughter, Neha. She holds a MSc in Nutrition, and a post-graduate diploma in Marketing Management.


Nazeeia started off her career as a junior scientist at the Medical Research Council in Cape Town where she worked on food composition data compilation. She then moved to the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal in the position of lecturer for eight years. She joined Unilever six years ago and currently holds the position of Nutrition & Health Manager in R&D, and is also the nutrition team leader for Africa. Nazeeia is based in Durban, South Africa.


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SODIUM INTAKE & BEHAVIOUR CHANGE: HIGHLIGHTS OF A CONSUMER STUDY IN SOUTH AFRICA

Nazeeia Sayed, Nutrition & Health Manager, R&D Unilever, Durban, South Africa


Background and Objectives: With impending salt reduction regulations in South Africa, this study aimed to assess the current situation of salt intake with regards to peoples' current behaviour, their view on salt use and food sources, their beliefs, and how and what they would like to be educated on in terms of health, nutrition and diet.


Methods: Participants (N=995) filled in an online questionnaire. Sodium intake was assessed with a short food frequency questionnaire and respondents ranked into tertiles of intake. There was also a questionnaire on determinants of behaviour. Data was analysed through factor analysis and regression to identify the main drivers of behaviour.


Results: The majority of participants (62%) were in a more advanced stage of behaviour change (i.e. had started contemplating or changing behaviour already). The majority (77%) of sodium intake came from purchased foods, with 7% from salt added at table. The majority (83%) of respondents perceive their salt intake as satisfactory or too low, also in the high intake tertile (75%). The majority (66%) are not aware of sodium intake recommendations. Respondents in the highest sodium intake tertile were more likely to be: young (18-34 years), single, studying, and diagnosed with high blood pressure. People see themselves as most responsible for their own salt intake, followed by food manufacturers & restaurants/caterers. Consumers would like to learn more about food sources of sodium, why high sodium intakes are bad for health, and how to use less salt when cooking. They see medical professionals as most credible, and the television the preferred channel for communication.


Conclusions: Even in the advanced stages of behaviour change, the new behaviour has not yet been embedded in habits. Salt and nutrition education efforts need to be based on the stage of behaviour. It is not just the education message that needs careful consideration, but the channel and appeal to the target audience that needs attention too.


Key words: salt reduction, behaviour change, nutrition education