Laura Wiechmann ’13

Dietary Intake Compared to Nutrition Knowledge in College Students

Many college students fail to meet United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) dietary goals due to low budgets, monotonous food choices, preferences for taste, and limited nutrition knowledge¹. 

Purpose: to compare nutrition students reported 3-day intake values to the USDA recommended guidelines and correlate students' intake to their nutrition knowledge. 

Methods: this research study was approved by the Institutional Review Board and all subjects gave informed consent.  Seventy nutrition students volunteered to participate in the study.  Subjects provided dietary records composed of 3-day average nutrient values and detailed food logs.  Participants (men n=22, women n=48) also completed a 20 question electronic nutrition survey² that tested basic nutrition knowledge of dietary recommendations, sources of nutrients, and diet-disease relationships.  Each diet was assessed using the validated Diet Quality Index-Revised (DQI-R) method³ and scored on a 0-100 scale [0-poor; 50-needs improvement; 100-exceptional].  The scoring criteria consisted of ten components (with 10 possible points per component) including total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, calcium, iron, and total servings of grains, fruits and vegetables, and scores for diet diversity and moderation. Trends across male and female data groups were compared using independent-tests. 

Results: the mean DQI-R score for men was 42.1 (±14.9) [Range: 38-71] and for women was 51.5 (±14.5) [Range: 50-81]. Approximately 60% of students over-consumed the recommended intake for total fat, 56% for saturated fat, and 77% for sodium.  Only 38% met goals for servings of fruits, 47% for vegetables (included potatoes), and 25% consumed adequate fiber. The mean knowledge score for men was 44.3% (±15.2%) [Range: 20-75%] and for women was 56.3% (± 14.4%) [Range 50-80%].  There was a weak correlation between students' DQI-R scores and nutrition knowledge (R=0.35).

Conclusions: there is not a strong correlation between nutrition knowledge and a nutritious diet.  DQI-R scores were not significantly different between men and women, nor were knowledge scores. Nutrition knowledge appears to have little influence on students' dietary intakes. These tests were administered at the beginning of the semester; perhaps if these tests would have been done at the end of the course, scores would have improved.

 1.Haas E. (1995).

2.Parmenter K., Wardle J. (1999).  European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 53(4), 298-308.

3.Haines, et al.  (1999). Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 99(6), 697-704.

Laura Wiechmann presented her research at the Minnesota Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics April 25, 2013.

Dietary Intake Compared to Nutrition Knowledge in College Students

Research Advisor: Amy Olson, PhD, RDN, LD