Use of food nutrition labels is associated with lower fat intake

M L Neuhouser, A R Kristal, R E Patterson
Journal of the American Dietetic Association 1999, 99 (1): 45-53

OBJECTIVE: The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 mandated that standardized nutrition information appear on almost all packaged foods manufactured after May 1994. This study describes the demographic and diet-related psychosocial correlates of nutrition label use, and examines the relationship between label use and diet.

DESIGN/SUBJECTS: Data are from a random-digit-dial telephone survey of 1,450 adult residents of Washington State. The questionnaire assessed nutrition label use, fat-related diet habits, fruit and vegetable consumption, diet-related psychosocial factors, health behavior, and demographic characteristics.

STATISTICAL ANALYSES: Analyses examined associations of demographic characteristics with nutrition label use; diet-related psychosocial factors and health behavior with nutrition label use, controlled for demographic characteristics; and nutrition label use with fat and fruit and vegetable intake, controlled for demographic characteristics and psychosocial factors.

RESULTS: Nutrition label use was significantly higher among women, residents younger than 35 years, and residents with more than a high school education. When controlled for demographic characteristics, the strongest predictors of label use were believing in the importance of eating a low-fat diet, believing in an association between diet and cancer, and being in the maintenance stage of change for adopting a low-fat diet. Label use was significantly associated with lower fat intake and, after controlling for all demographic, psychosocial, and behavioral variables, explained 6% of the variance in fat intake (P < .001). Label use was not associated with fruit and vegetable consumption.

APPLICATIONS/CONCLUSION: Persons successfully limiting their fat intake use nutrition labels, suggesting that the new nutrition labels are helpful. Dietetics professionals can use the results of this study to emphasize to their clients the importance of reading nutrition labels in maintaining a low-fat diet.

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