Date of Award

Spring 5-2006

Document Type


Degree Name

Honors College Theses


Agricultural Economics

Second Advisor

Dr. Joyce W. O'Rourke

Third Advisor

Dr. Beverly Wade


The accumulation of too much fat in the body is the leading cause of being overweight and obese, and it can lead to more complicated health problems. Studies show that individuals who are overweight or obese bear a greater risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and some forms of cancer. Louisiana ranks fourth in the number of its citizens who are either overweight or obese. Additionally, the state spends almost $11 billion annually treating diet-related health problems. The study's objectives are as follows: (1) to assess the extent to which food label use, awareness of health problems caused by excessive consumption of fat, sodium, sugar, and cholesterol, insufficient consumption of fiber and calcium, and sociodemographic (SD) characteristics influence consumers' perceptions of their overall diet quality; (2) to examine the role played by body mass indices (BMI) and SD characteristics in shaping consumers' perceptions of their general physical health; and (3) to determine whether gender differences exist between weight perceptions and actual weight. The study's data were compiled from a stratified random sample of telephone subscribers in Louisiana in fall 2002. The survey was geared toward the household member who was primarily responsible for food purchases or meal preparation. Data were collected on respondents' perceptions of the healthiness of their diets and weights, awareness of health problems caused by excessive consumption of fat, sodium, sugar, cholesterol and insufficient amounts of fiber and calcium, use of food labels, and perceptions of general physical health. The sample contained 1,300 respondents, but only 1,039 answered all questions completely. The study used the chi-square test of independence and ordered probit modeling techniques to analyze the data. Based on the chi-square results, perceptions of overall diet quality are statistically significantly associated with levels of education, household, size, marital status, household income, gender, race, label use, and awareness of problems caused by excessive or insufficient consumption of fat, fiber, or cholesterol and also suggest that BMI, age, education, household size, marital status, household income, gender, race, are good predictors of perceptions of physical health. From the ordered probit models' results, label users, and older respondents are more likely and non-college graduates are less likely to attach a higher degree of importance to their overall diet quality than their corresponding counterparts. Furthermore, healthy persons are more likely to perceive themselves as being healthy, whereas obese persons, older persons, non-high school graduates, low-income households, and women are less likely to perceive themselves in that manner. Previous research shows that nutrition information affects overall diet quality, and also suggests a continued role for nutrition education efforts to close the persistent gap between actual and healthful diets. The continued use of food labels and additional education on nutritional attributes can help consumers become more health conscientious. Education and behavioral changes are the keys to people living healthy lives. Based on the study's findings, greater efforts should be placed on educating consumers on how to use food labels so they can make healthier food choices.