Nutrition Label Use Partially Mediates the Relationship between Attitude toward Healthy Eating and Overall Dietary Quality among College Students

Published:November 14, 2011DOI:


      Individuals who frequently read nutrition labels tend to both value healthy eating and engage in healthy dietary practices more than individuals who read labels infrequently. However, the relationship between label use, attitude toward healthy eating, and dietary quality remains unclear, particularly among young adults, about whom little is known with regard to nutrition label use. Our study investigated whether nutrition label use mediates the relationship between eating-related attitudes and dietary behaviors among young adult college students. Using cross-sectional online survey data collected in 2010 from a convenience sample in Minneapolis/St Paul, MN (598 attending a 2-year community college; 603 attending a public 4-year university; mean age 21.5 years; 53.4% nonwhite; 52.5% women), study findings indicate that students who reported frequently reading nutrition labels were more likely to have healthier dietary intakes (eg, less fast food and added sugar; more fiber, fruits, and vegetables) compared to those who read labels sometimes or rarely (P<0.001). Further, frequent nutrition label use was a significant partial mediator of the relationship between eating-related attitude (ie, feeling that it is important to prepare healthy meals) and dietary quality, indicating that label use may be one means by which individuals who value healthy eating translate their attitude into healthy eating behaviors. Even among those who did not believe it was important to prepare healthy meals, frequent nutrition label use was significantly associated with healthier dietary intake, suggesting that label use may operate independently of nutrition-related attitude in contributing to healthful diet.


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      D. J. Graham is a research associate, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.


      M. N. Laska is an assistant professor, Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.