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USDA's Healthy Eating Index and Nutrition Information

by Jayachandran Variyam, James R. Blaylock, and David Smallwood

Technical Bulletin No. (TB-1866) 26 pp, May 1998

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A comprehensive model is developed to measure the extent that nutrition knowledge and diet-health awareness, among other factors, influence an individual's Healthy Eating Index (HEI), USDA's measure of overall diet quality. This is the first study that rigorously attempts to examine variation in the index across population groups by controlling for personal and household characteristics and nutrition information levels, as well as test for endogeneity of nutrition information. Results indicate that one's level of nutrition information has an important influence on one's HEI and that nutrition information and the HEI are simultaneously determined. Other factors explaining variations in HEI's across individuals are income and education levels, race, ethnicity, and age. Evidence supports the hypothesis that higher education promotes more healthful food choices through better acquisition and use of health information.

Keywords: diet quality, Healthy Eating Index, nutrient demand, nutrition knowledge, health inputs, health production

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For more information contact: Jayachandran Variyam, James R. Blaylock, and David Smallwood

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