Food nutrition label use is associated with demographic, behavioral, and psychosocial factors and dietary intake among African Americans in North Carolina

Jessie A Satia, Joseph A Galanko, Marian L Neuhouser
Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2005, 105 (3): 392-402; discussion 402-3

OBJECTIVE: Reading nutrition labels on food packages may improve food choices and enable healthful dietary practices. This report describes the prevalence of nutrition label use and its association with demographic, behavioral, and psychological factors and diet among African-American adults.

DESIGN/SUBJECTS: Self-reported data from a population-based cross-sectional survey of 658 African Americans, aged 20 to 70 years, in North Carolina. An 11-page questionnaire assessed nutrition label use, fruit and vegetable consumption, total and saturated fat intakes, fat-related dietary behaviors, diet-related psychosocial factors, and demographic and behavioral characteristics.

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS: Chi2 tests and logistic regression analyses examined associations of demographic, psychosocial, and behavioral factors with nutrition label use. Linear regression was used to estimate the variation in diet explained by label use.

RESULTS: The mean age of participants was 43.9+/-11.6 years, 41% were men, 37% were college graduates, and 75% were overweight/obese. Seventy-eight percent of respondents read nutrition labels when they purchased packaged foods. Nutrition label use was significantly higher among participants who were women, older, educated beyond high school, and obese (P <.05). After adjusting for demographic characteristics, the strongest psychosocial predictors of nutrition label use were healthful eating self-efficacy, strong belief in a diet-cancer relationship, and trying to lose weight. Usual/often label users had higher fruit and vegetable consumption and lower fat intakes (P <.001), and nutrition labels explained 2% to 17% of the variance in dietary intake.

CONCLUSIONS: Nutrition information on packaged foods appears to be a useful way to conduct point-of-purchase nutrition education among African Americans in North Carolina. Most respondents used food labels at least sometimes, but only about half usually or often did so. Efforts should be made to determine how all consumers could use nutrition labels effectively.

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