Date of Award

8-2012

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Food Science and Human Nutrition

Advisor

Mary Ellen Camire

Second Committee Member

Alfred Bushway

Third Committee Member

Mario Teisl

Abstract

Obesity and chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, are prevalent in the American population. Long term poor dietary choices increase a person’s risk of developing these chronic health conditions. Adequate dietary fiber intake has been associated with reduced risks of these chronic diseases. College students tend to have poor dietary habits but are also in a position to form new dietary habits that could be reflective of their future lifelong food choices. This population has a low interest in and knowledge of nutrition. This intervention study that included five phases (Pre-Intervention, Intervention 1, Washout, Intervention 2, Post-Intervention) examined how labeling of dietary fiber impacted college students’ knowledge and purchasing behavior. For Intervention 1, grain products sold at three stations in one dining hall facility were labeled with fiber content. After a one week washout period, the dietary fiber labels were reposted along with information about dietary fiber. Two surveys asking questions about demographics, dining habits, and dietary fiber knowledge were each distributed to over 100 students at the University of Maine. One survey was administered at the start of the study, before any dietary fiber labeling was displayed, and the second survey was administered after the two intervention periods were complete. Product invoices were compiled for the entire semester that reflected how much of each grain product was ordered each week. Chi-square tests and logistic regressions evaluated the survey data. Invoice data was analyzed with analysis of variance. Participants who completed the Post-Intervention survey were more likely (p=0.047) to correctly have answered the recommended intake of dietary fiber question compared to the Pre-Intervention survey participants. Females were more likely to correctly answer the recommended intake question compared to males (p=0.006). Fifteen percent of males and 33% of females correctly identified the Dietary Reference Intake for fiber specific to their respective gender. Post-Intervention participants were more likely to select “reduces risks of stomach cancer” as a health benefit of fiber compared to Pre- Intervention survey participants, though this option wasn’t listed on the fiber labeling signage. As age increases, the likelihood of correctly identifying weight loss/maintenance as a true health benefit also increases (p=0.033), though there was not a significant difference between the two age categories of late teenage years and early twenties. No difference in percentage of sales from high fiber grain products was measured between the five periods. Further research with a larger sample of college students is needed to determine if menu labeling techniques effectively change consumer knowledge and purchasing behaviors.

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