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Do nutrition knowledge and attitudes influence diet quality?

Agricultural Communications Documentation Center (ACDC)
Haines, Pamela S. (main author), Metz, Jill (author), Patterson, Ruth E. (author), School of Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
Conference paper
Publication Date:
Agricultural Communications Documentation Center, Funk Library, University of Illinois Box: 97
Subject Term:
attitudes, behavior, knowledge, nutrition information
James F. Evans Collection, Ham, Mimeographed, 1994. 1 p. Presented at the Society for Nutrition Education, Portland, OR, July 16-20, 1994., The objective of this study was to examine the extent to which diet and health-related knowledge and attitudes explain differences in diet quality as measured by the Diet Quality Index (DQI). To date, empirical evidence linking attitude, knowledge and overall diet quality has been unavailable in a representative sample of the US population. The study sample included 880 men and women identified as primary meal planner - preparers who completed three days of dietary intake data as part of the 1989 Continuing Survey of Food Intake by Individuals and who completed the 1989 Diet and Health Knowledge Survey. The DQI is a multidimensional index of diet quality which scales and sums eight Diet and Health recommendations. Knowledge and attitude scales reflect elements of the Health Belief Model--susceptibility, personal importance of following dietary guidelines, diet and health awareness ,and nutrition knowledge. The proportion of the population achieving any one of the eight DQI guidelines ranged from 70% consuming less than 300 mg cholesterol per day to 15% consuming 5 daily servings of fruit and vegetables. 13.3% of diets were classified as good; 44.7% of diets were classified as fair or poor. Heightened diet and disease awareness (p=0.01) and level of nutrition knowledge (p=0.07) were positively and independently associated with better diet quality in mulitvariate analyses controlling for age, gender, income, race, education and selected household and lifestyle characteristics. In contrast, lower importance given to following the Dietary Guidelines (p=0.008) and greater susceptibility [more frequent responses that own diet ought to be lower in calories, fat, saturated fat, dietary cholesterol, and salt] (p=0.01) were associated with poorer overall dietary quality. Other factors associated with dietary quality included higher education, age over 40, being on a special diet, and reporting that nutrition was an important priority while grocery shopping. Factors independently and negatively associated with dietary quality included being under 40 and single, ever smoking at least 100 cigarettes, and being overweight. Gender, race, and income level did not explain additional variation in diet quality when knowledge and attitude variables were included in multivariate models. Results suggest nutrition knowledge and attitudes are independent predictors of the overall quality of diet.