Degree Name

Master of Science


Department of Health and Nutrition


Poor dietary habits - many of wliich influence fat consumption - are often in evidence during adolescence and these constitute both an immediate and remote health risk. To reduce the incidence of cardiovascular risk-related behaviours in adulthood, some preventive dietary measures should begin in childhood. The focus of this study was the measurement of behaviours consistent with recommendations for a reduction in dietary fat consumption. The aim was to develop some understanding of psycho-social determinants that may promote health-enhancing behaviours in adolescence. The sample was drawn from Year 10 students (aged 15 years) at Bulli High School. Sixty one subjects (42 female, 19 male) participated in the study, approximately 50 percent indicating a familial history of cardiovascular disease. Subjects completed a three-part questionnaire encompassing Food Habits, Nutrition Attitude and Self-Efficacy measures. A Food Habits score, five dietary behaviour scores, a Nutrition Attitude score and four nutrition attitude category scores as well as a mean efficacy rating were calculated for each subject. The results indicated an infrequent tendency for adolescents in this sample to adopt behaviours consistent with reductions in dietary fat intake. The most frequent behaviour was the avoidance of fat as seasoning, while the most infrequent was the replacement of high-fat ingredients or preparation techniques with low-fat alternatives. Girls scored significantly higher (P= 0.005) on the nutrition attitude category 'Caring About Nutrition' than did boys. A familial history of cardiovascular disease negatively influenced females scores' for this category (P= 0.0014) but positively influenced males' score (P= 0.0101). Regression analysis confirmed that gender, familial history, nutrition attitudes and perceived self-efficacy combined could predict the Food Habits score (P= 0.0128) and scores for two of the dietary behaviours measured (Substitute P= 0.0059; Replace with Fruit/Vegetable P= 0.0035). It was concluded that the availability and the acceptability of fat-modified foods are the factors most likely to influence the dietary behaviours of this adolescent sample. The family environment is therefore a significant influence on adolescent dietary behaviours. Attitudes and self-efficacy beliefs do influence behaviour, therefore any intervention seeking to modify adolescent health behaviours should also address these factors. There is an apparent need in adolescent nutrition education to emphasise the role of nutrition in health as opposed to focusing on nutrients and disease, and to target adolescent males more assiduously.