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Nutrition for visually impaired people

An estimated 1.2 million blind and visually impaired people live in Germany. All of them face similar challenges in everyday life - for example, in the supermarket: whether small price tags, special offer items in the aisle or frequently re-sorted goods: shopping alone is difficult for people with visual impairments. They need support to find the desired products, to read prices, to pack open goods or to recognise the best-before date. A study by the Neubrandenburg University of Applied Sciences has now, for the first time in Germany, scientifically approached the shopping, cooking and eating behaviour of visually impaired people.

As a result, recommendations for the retail trade could be formulated that make it easier for visually impaired people to manage their daily lives themselves. "In addition, the study serves as a call to us dieticians to consider people with visual impairments and to adapt our counselling concepts to them in order to improve the quality of nutrition," emphasises Prof. Dr. Luzia Valentini (Chair of Clinical Dietetics and Nutrition, Director of the In-Institute for Evidence-Based Dietetics NIED).

The idea for the study was developed by dietetics students in the module "Scientific Work". "The Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Neubrandenburg had sent a request for a lecture to the dietetics course and was interested in further joint projects," says Prof. Valentini. So she took up the topic together with her students. The young scientists designed the survey, carried it out and evaluated it.

The results were summarised: Three quarters of the visually impaired respondents need the assistance of market employees or other shoppers, especially in finding goods, reading prices and transporting food. Meanwhile, about 40 percent of the respondents use electric reading magnifiers, 27 percent resort to special apps for smartphones that can read texts aloud. More than 40 per cent would like to see improved staff service and accompaniment at the grocery store. They also express the wish for more accessibility, such as no obstacles due to products standing in the middle of the aisle.

Trend: people with visual impairments eat less healthy food

The study also showed that people with visual impairments have poorer nutrition than the average German population. The majority (69 per cent) of the interviewees' nutritional quality is "in need of improvement". One third are considered "poorly nourished". "This could be related to the difficulties in purchasing and processing food", explains Prof. Valentini and continues: "When people with visual impairments prepare food, especially processing and tasting the food is difficult for them, as is determining the cooking time or weighing". More than half nevertheless "always" use food that still has to be washed, cut and cooked. However, 12 per cent resort to ready-to-eat foods such as convenience foods on a daily basis, compared to only 0.2 per cent in the overall German population.

Prof. Valentini suggests that dieticians support the visually impaired with special training sessions in teaching kitchens to teach them how to cook. The students recommend improving the nutritional quality of the visually impaired through shopping coaching and explaining the wide range of products to them. "It is also the responsibility of dietitians to represent the concerns of visually impaired people to food science and nutrition policy. In this way, they can work on solutions to increase the accessibility of health-promoting nutrition for the visually impaired," emphasises the professor.

The results of the visually impaired study are being followed up. In the meantime, two short articles have been published in German journals and in September, a study team member will present the results at a European congress. The results of the two other study groups have also been accepted for poster presentations at national and international congresses and a short article will be published in a German journal. Details of the study can be found, for example, here:

Scientific contact persons:
Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Luzia Valentini