Nutrition Education and Behavioral Science
To determine if there is an association between critical nutrition literacy (CNL) and dietary behavior. It is hypothesized that college students with higher nutrition literacy scores will consume more fruits and vegetables (FV) and less added sugar (S).
A secondary data analysis was conducted using a cross-sectional survey of a convenience sample of college students from the University of Rhode Island, Rutgers University, and West Virginia University. Participants completed the Behavior Environment Perception Survey (BEPS), including the validated NCI Dietary Screener Questionnaire to assess FV and S consumption, and a validated, 5-item CNL Claims Scale to assess CNL. Mean CNL scores (range 1-5) were divided into tertiles: 1.0 to 3.0 indicated lower CNL, 3.01 to 3.81 moderate CNL and 3.82 to 5.0 higher CNL. Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) examined the differences between the CNL tertiles and cup equivalents (C) of FV per day and teaspoon equivalents (tsp) of S per day.
Out of the 1,820 student responses to BEPS, 1,407 students had complete data for CNL, the dependent variables, and were between the ages of 18 and 24. The average age was 20.3 ± 1.7 (SD) years old; majority were female (72%), white (81%), and lived off-campus (61%). Mean CNL score among students was 3.49 ± 0.72 (SD). After controlling for university, there were no differences between CNL score and fruit and vegetable or added sugar intake (F(2,704) =1.88, p=.08). Interestingly, although not statistically significant, mean FV was 2.28 ± 0.95 (SD) C and S was 12.29 ± 7.7 (SD) tsp for subjects with lower CNL while students with higher CNL reported less FV of 2.16 ± 0.96 (SD) C and more S of 13.30 ± 8.9 (SD) tsp.
Results suggest no significant relationships between CNL score and FV or added S intake. This finding contrasts with research demonstrating that health literacy is predictive of positive health promotion behavior. Future research should investigate the relationship between CNL and FV or S more specifically by including more sensitive and comprehensive nutrition literacy measures.
Funding Sources : This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch projects, at the participating universities.