To read this content please select one of the options below:

Impact of nutrition knowledge on behaviour towards health claims on foodstuffs

Fiona Lalor (School of Public Health & Population Science, University College Dublin, Dublin,Ireland)
Jean Kennedy (Geary Institute, University College Dublin,Dublin, Ireland)
Patrick G. Wall (School of Public Health & Population Science, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 14 June 2011




This study aims to investigate whether nutrition knowledge impacts on the credibility and purchase behaviour of foodstuffs that make health claims.


The UCD Food and Health Survey is a monthly online survey, which began in November 2008. In March 2009, participants were asked a series of questions pertaining to nutrition and health claims and 665 completed questionnaires were included for analysis. Participants' level of nutrition knowledge was measured using a combined and modified version of Parmenter and Wardle's General Nutrition Knowledge Questionnaire (1999) and that of Hawkes and Nowak (1998). Perceived credibility was gauged using a semantic differential scale and the questionnaire was designed to also assess participants' purchasing behaviour of functional foods.


Females scored significantly higher than males for nutrition knowledge (p=0.004) but there was no significant difference in nutrition knowledge between age groups. “Reduces feelings of hunger” was deemed the most credible claim. With the exception of “This yogurt drink will strengthen your bones and teeth”, there was no difference in credibility between high and low nutrition knowledge groups. Health claims were more credible to participants when found on yogurt and breakfast cereal when compared with pasta and chocolate. Products claiming to reduce cholesterol were purchased more in the previous month than any of the other products and the same product was purchased statistically more often by those participants in the older age group.

Research limitations/implications

A limitation of this study was that the panel were younger and more formally educated than the general public. They were also more likely to be female. The gender bias may be because the survey was food and health‐based and therefore may not have appealed to men as a more generally themed survey might have done. The results of this study should be considered therefore with this limitation in mind.

Practical implications

People do not consider products with health claims to be a uniform category of foodstuffs and participants' level of nutrition knowledge does not have a significant impact on their behaviour towards products carrying health claims.


Knowledge of nutrition does not impact on people's reactions to products with health claims and different foods demonstrate different levels of credibility as carriers for health claims.



Lalor, F., Kennedy, J. and Wall, P.G. (2011), "Impact of nutrition knowledge on behaviour towards health claims on foodstuffs", British Food Journal, Vol. 113 No. 6, pp. 753-765.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles