In this study we describe three different forms of nutrition literacy in a group of Palestinians mainly youth who study or work in health related profession. Also we showed that nutrition label use, nutrition seeking information and diet behavior are related significantly related to nutrition literacy.
People who showed higher FNL were less likely to have poor dietary behavior. Also, participants who had higher level of FNL seemed to trust resources of nutrition information such as doctors, nurses, books and internet. Previous literature supports positive association between diet behavior and nutrition literacy (16, 17). So one can conclude that improved nutrition literacy could prevent chronic diseases (18).
In terms of FNL, although our study group showed lack of knowledge in terms of WHO guidelines for healthy diet and application of dietary guidelines to everyday living. They expressed high understanding of nutrition knowledge and languages which correlated significantly with low calorie and low fat diet. This could be overestimated and misleading as guidelines to healthy diet have other aspects such as intake of fruits and vegetables and lower intake of soft drinks among others, which is in accordance with what was found previously(17, 19). For example the score for confidence on the definition of healthy diet was high, whereas the knowledge of WHO guidelines on healthy nutrition was low, which indicate that the participants may have overestimated their skills with regards to nutrition knowledge.
With regards to INL, participants were confident in sharing nutrition information and influencing peers and family, also health prefessionals, whereas interent as source of information was not well received. In a study among women using facebook as source of information on eating disorders was related to disorganized eating and negative body image (20).
Our study group are critical of work, university and work place attitudes towards providing healthy meals. In addition, study group showed tendency to influence and be influenced by others. They are confident more of that they think is credible source of information. Young students use websites such as facebook, twitter and Youtube to obtain information about diet when confronted health issues such as DM2(21).
Nutrition knowledge was associated with decrease intake of fat rich food sources and calories. A diet rich in cholesterol, saturated fat and trans-fat is associated with increase in serum low density lipoprotein (22). To reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease the amount of saturated fat and trans fat in diet should be reduced (23, 24). In literature, food selection is related to nutrition knowledge(25, 26) as some nutrition basic knowledge is related to diet change (27). In study among 231 students, those who have more than 35% of their total calories from fat had lower nutrition knowledge scores and females had more nutrition knowledge than males.
Nutrition literacy was higher in females compared to males. This in agreement with what was done before in 201 adults older than 18 y from Australia, nutrition knowledge with regards to nutrition recommendations, food nutrients, food choices, diet related diseases were higher in females relative to males, although total knowledge and nutrition recommendations were significantly higher(28). Other studies report demographic variation in nutrition knowledge, lower SES, unemployed, less educated have lower knowledge scores (29). Particularly, nutrition knowledge is important for women as it help to protect their offspring from malnutrition or future over-nutrition(30).
Mediterranean diet is a diet that lowers chronic disease and it is predominant in countries like Palestine. In a study among 127 students, greater nutrition education was associated with higher adherence to Mediterranean diet (31). Hence, nutrition education to improve nutrition literacy among Palestinian people could have impact on the prevalence of chronic diseases in the society.
This study is not without limitation including using convenient sample and its cross sectional design. Our sample represented mainly young students who had or currently enrolled in basic clinical nutrition class, so this sample is not represented of general Palestinian society who may be lagging behind in terms of nutrition knowledge which indicate the need for programs to improve nutrition literacy among Palestinian society.
In this study we reported descriptive data on different types of nutrition literacy that indicated that Palestinian society has interest in knowing better about nutrition from credible, but find it difficult to apply healthy nutrition on everyday life. Both CrL and INL significantly correlated with each other. Nutrition literacy correlated significantly with label use, diet behavior and credible sources of nutrition information. Efforts are needed to raise the nutrition knowledge in the Palestinian society.