Computers can be a cost-effective way to deliver information about the benefits of soy consumption in elderly populations around the world.

Although elderly consumers are health-conscious, many are unfamiliar with soy products that may benefit them, say University of Illinois researchers. They theorized that education would affect familiarity with, attitudes toward, taste perception of, and selection of soy foods.

They focused on a small group of elderly who demonstrated their ability to use an Internet-based computer program. This group used an interactive computer program to learn about soy foods and their health benefits. A second group got its information through a traditional lecture.

Subjects age 55+ completed surveys before and after the educational efforts. Beforehand, the elderly consumed soy slightly less than once per week. They didn't have strong opinions about the taste of soy. They felt that soy was healthy, but didn't link the health benefits with cancer or heart disease prevention.

Both approaches significantly increased the connection between soy and reductions in the risk of cancer and heart disease. Those in the computer group were more affected.

The computer program was superior at increasing familiarity with and improving attitudes toward soy products. Traditional lectures were better at enhancing the taste perception of soy.

(James Painter, Barbara Klein and Robert Reber, University of Illinois)