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Psychosocial correlates of dietary fat intake in African-American adults: a cross-sectional study

Joanne L Watters12* and Jessie A Satia2345

Author affiliations

1 Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program, Office of Preventive Oncology, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20852, USA

2 Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA

3 Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA

4 Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA

5 Center for Gastrointestinal Biology and Disease, Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA

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Citation and License

Nutrition Journal 2009, 8:15  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-8-15

Published: 25 March 2009



Current dietary guidelines recommend that dietary fat should comprise 20–35% percent of total energy intake, with less than 10% of energy from saturated fat. However, many Americans exceed these goals and data suggest that African Americans tend to consume a higher percentage of energy from dietary fat than Whites. Because diets low in dietary fat, particularly saturated fat, are associated with lower risk for many chronic illnesses, it is important to identify strategies to reduce high fat intakes. This study examined associations of psychosocial factors with dietary fat intake in African American adults 18 to 70 years.


Data are self-reported from a cross-sectional survey of African Americans (n = 658) using an 11-page questionnaire, collected from June to October 2003. Associations of psychosocial (predisposing, reinforcing, and enabling) factors based on the PRECEDE framework, dietary fat-related behaviors, and participant characteristics (e.g., age, sex, education, BMI) with total and saturated fat consumption are described using linear regression and analysis of variance.


The mean age of participants was 43.9 years, 57% were female, 37% were college graduates, and 76% were overweight/obese. Respondents with lower fat intakes were female, older, had high education and very good/excellent perceived health. Among the psychosocial factors, the strongest (inverse) associations with fat intake were with two predisposing factors: belief in the importance of a low-fat diet (both genders) and high self-efficacy (women only). Fat intake was also significantly lower among participants who could count on those close for encouragement to eat healthy foods (a reinforcing factor) and among men who needed more information about preparing healthy foods (an enabling factor).


Dietary interventions to decrease fat intake in African American adults may benefit from incorporating predisposing factors, such as personal beliefs and self-efficacy, in their design and implementation.