Do nutrition label readers eat healthier diets? Behavioral correlates of adults' use of food labels

Am J Prev Med. 1997 Jul-Aug;13(4):277-83.


Background: Reading and understanding nutrition labels on foods may be an important precursor to dietary change. However, little is known about how nutrition labels are used by consumers and what effect reading labels has on dietary behaviors.

Methods: This article identifies behavioral and health status correlates of nutrition label reading and describes patterns of label use among 885 adult patients from four family medicine clinics in southeastern Missouri. To participate, patients completed a self-administered survey while waiting to see their physicians.

Results: Analyses revealed patients eating diets lower in fat were much more likely (51% versus 26%) than patients whose diets were higher in fat to report labels influencing their food purchase decisions, as were patients eating diets higher in fruits, vegetables, and fiber. Patients with high blood pressure were 63% more likely than those with normal or low blood pressure to look for sodium on the nutrition label (odds ratio [OR] = 1.63, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.35, 1.97), but no more likely to look for other nutrition label information. Similarly, patients with high cholesterol were more likely than those with normal or low cholesterol to look for saturated fat (OR = 1.39, 95% CI = 1.13, 1.72) and cholesterol (OR = 1.60, 95% CI = 1.29, 1.98) on the label, but no more likely to look for other nutrition label information.

Conclusions: Findings consistently supported a relationship between patients' label reading and their dietary practices.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diet
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Food Labeling*
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged