Québec eating habits under the microscope

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  • Life Habits
NutriQuébec
  • Published at

    Monday 17 June 2019

NutriQuébec, the largest prospective study ever conducted on the long-term eating habits of Quebec adults, will begin in June. This research project has received the Alliance santé Québec sustainable health project seal.

Québec researchers will collect a multitude of data over several years from project participants. The data will concern their dietary habits, physical activity, sleep habits, drug consumption (tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs), financial access to food, and overall state of health (physical, mental, quality of life).

This project study is being carried out as part of the Government of Québec’s 2017–2021 interministerial action plan, which aims to achieve the nine targets of the government’s fall of 2016 preventive health policy by 2025. 

The Government of Québec’s targets include getting more than half of Quebecers to consume a minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The World Health Organisation recommends that people “consume more than 400 g (the equivalent of five servings) of fruits and vegetables per day to improve overall health and reduce the risk of certain non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, diabetes, and obesity.” 

According to the Québec PREDISE study published in December 2018 in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, “less than 25% of participants [francophone adults in five regions of Québec with Internet access] were following the recommendations of Canada’s Food Guide [2007 version] regarding the consumption of vegetables and fruits [at least seven or eight servings a day, according to their age and sex]”.  

Emphasis on monitoring and analyzing eating habits 

The Government of Québec is funding the NutriQuébec project to assess the impacts of its preventive health policy and to monitor and analyze changes in the eating habits of Québec adults. The Cardiometabolic Health, Diabetes and Obesity Research Network is also providing financial support for the project.

“There is very little data that is both detailed and frequent on the eating habits of the Québec population,” says Catherine Laramée, a nutritionist and the coordinator of the NutriQuébec project. “The Canadian Community Health Survey, which includes data on Canadians’ eating habits, is conducted about every 10 years. It never looks at the eating habits of the same people over time to find out whether or not they develop health problems. What sets the NutriQuébec project apart is that it is creating a large cohort of participants who will be monitored over time to give us a better understanding of the reasons why people stay healthy.”

Led by Benoît Lamarche, a full professor and researcher at the School of Nutrition in the Université Laval Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences, NutriQuébec draws on the expertise of an interdisciplinary team of researchers from Université Laval (Ariane Bélanger-Gravel, Sophie Desroches, Simone Lemieux), McGill University (David Buckeridge), Université de Montréal (Lise Gauvin), Institut national de santé publique du Québec (Céline Plante), and Statistics Canada (Didier Garriguet). Institute of Nutrition and Functional Food (INAF) research professionals Catherine Laramée and Annie Lapointe and a number of nutrition students are also contributing to the research.

Seeking 30,000 participants

NutriQuébec researchers want to recruit up to 30,000 adults from all regions of Québec and all socioeconomic backgrounds. For at least four years, participants will be required to complete, once a year, various questionnaires on their lifestyle on NutriQuébec highly secure Web platform. Their eating habits will be measured using a unique Web tool developed at INAF, the 24-Hour Recall Web platform, which will be used to record all food consumed by participants in a day three times a month. The researchers will also measure other factors that can have an impact on their eating habits, such as physical activity levels and sleep patterns.

PULSAR will ethically and securely manage the personal data collected to protect its confidentiality, in full compliance with the laws in force in Québec and Canada, and in accordance with Université Laval information security policies.

Participants will be registered on the NutriQuébec website. In return for their contribution, they will receive a brief nutritional assessment free of charge. “The men and women taking part in the NutriQuébec study will help researchers identify the factors with the biggest influence on health and improve the health of all Quebecers by providing policy direction on healthy lifestyles,” says Catherine Laramée.

Depending on the funding sources available, the NutriQuébec team hopes to continue its project for 25 years. Throughout the project, NutriQuébec will share its preliminary findings with public organizations (e.g., Government of Québec, INSPQ, Statistics Canada), other researchers, and the public through knowledge transfer activities (talks, continuing education sessions) and its scientific publications, on its website and its Facebook page.