Date of Award

Winter 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Human Ecology

First Advisor

Vicky Green


Cooperative extension provides communities with research-based information in several areas including family and consumer sciences (FCS) (Franz & Townson, 2008). Because FCS agents teach communities about dietary guidelines, it is important that they are aware of the latest nutrition research. This study assessed the knowledge of popular fad diets and their potential adverse effects among FCS cooperative extension agents, and its relationship among the variables of location, professional certifications held, years of extension work experience, membership in professional associations, and education level. FCS extension agents in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and Mississippi were emailed an online survey, which collected demographics and assessed their knowledge about three fad diet categories (low-carbohydrate, intermittent fasting, detoxes and cleanses) and potential adverse effects. Data collection lasted for four weeks. One hundred and thirtyeight agents were analyzed. Frequency testing was used for descriptive statistics of demographic data. Respondents’ knowledge about fad diets and adverse effects was assessed with test scores from knowledge items embedded in the survey. The average total knowledge score among respondents was 70%. Univariate ANOVA was used to compare scores with education level, years of experience, membership in professional associations, certifications held, and the state in which participants were employed. A pvalue of ≤ 0.05 indicated significance. RDN, DTR, and CHES certifications had a significant association (p = 0.03) with knowledge adverse effects of fad diets. The results suggest agents who hold these credentials may have more knowledge about adverse effects of fad diets. Further research is needed to validate this association.