Background

Heart disease is a leading killer in the United States. Young adults have high rates of an elevated BMI, poor diet, and poor exercise habits which are associated with chronic conditions related to heart disease. Young adults are motivated to limit their risk of these chronic conditions . The goal of this study was to examine the relationships between chronic conditions and reading food labels in diverse young adults.

Methods

Diet behavior, health conditions, and demographic information were extracted using NHANES 2005-2006 questionnaire data. The 2005-2006 data was used as it was the last data to examine specific pieces of a food label. The independence between two categorical variables was tested using Chi-square test. Mantel-Haenszel test was applied in testing the independence of two nominal variables when conditioning on a third variable.

Results

A total of 1,236 records were extracted for data. More than 44% of participants were told they had high blood pressure 2 or more times, more than 42% were told the have borderline diabetes (differences by race, p=0.014), and more than 10% of participants were told they have high cholesterol. There is a trend that more Hispanic participants were told they had high cholesterol than other races (p=0.07). Overall, examination of food labels was moderate, with more than 20% of participants never examining sodium, sugar, or trans fat. Examining calories and being told you have hypertension tends to have a significant association (p=0.06). There is a statistically significant relationship (p=0.049) between examining fiber on a food label and being told you have hypertension.

Conclusions

Young adults are not reading and examining food labels on a regular basis. There were no significant relationships between specific chronic conditions and associated pieces of food labels, such as hypertension and sodium. Young adults should be encouraged to understand food labels and the parts of food labels specifically associated with certain chronic conditions.