British Journal of Nutrition

Dietary Surveys and Nutritional Epidemiology

Evaluation of general nutrition knowledge in elite Australian athletes

Jessica K. Spendlovea1, Susan E. Heaneya2, Janelle A. Gifforda1, Tania Prvana3, Gareth S. Denyera1 and Helen T. O'Connora2 c1

a1 Faculty of Science, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

a2 Discipline of Exercise and Sport Science, Faculty of Health Science, University of Sydney (Cumberland Campus), PO Box 170, Lidcombe, NSW 1825, Australia

a3 Faculty of Science, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW, Australia


The aim of the present study was to investigate and benchmark the level of general nutrition knowledge in elite Australian athletes (EA) against a similar aged community (CM) and criterion sample with dietetic training (DT). EA (n 175), CM (n 116) and DT (n 53) completed the General Nutrition Knowledge Questionnaire (GNKQ), which assesses four domains (sections A–D) of general nutrition knowledge (section A: dietary guidelines; section B: sources of nutrients; section C: choosing everyday foods; section D: diet–disease relationships). Age, sex and education level were collected in all groups, and athletic calibre and sport type (team or individual) in EA. Dietitians and nutrition scientists (n 53) re-examined the GNKQ for content validity, resulting in instrument revision (R-GNKQ; ninety-six items). Psychometric assessment (internal consistency: Cronbach-α; test–retest: Spearman rank correlation) was performed in a sub-sample (n 28). Independent t tests, ANOVA and ANCOVA (χ2 for categorical variables) were used to assess between-group differences. DT scored higher than EA and CM in all sub-sections and overall (P < 0·005). EA scored lower than CM in GNKQ for section B (P < 0·005) and overall (P < 0·005), and in R-GNKQ for section B (P < 0·005), section C (P < 0·005), section D (P = 0·006) and overall (P < 0·005). Overall score was influenced by age (P = 0·036 for GNKQ: P = 0·053 for R-GNKQ), sex (P = 0·016 for GNKQ: P = 0·003 for R-GNKQ) and athletic calibre (P = 0·029 for R-GNKQ only), but not level of education, living situation or ethnicity. EA and CM performed best on section A and worst on D. EA had lower overall general knowledge scores than CM. This was significantly influenced by age and sex.

(Received February 28 2011)

(Revised August 01 2011)

(Accepted August 16 2011)

(Online publication October 10 2011)


c1 Corresponding author: Dr H. T. O'Connor, fax +61 2 9351 9204, email


Abbreviations: CM, community; DT, dietetic-trained; EA, elite Australian athletes; GNKQ, General Nutrition Knowledge Questionnaire; R-GNKQ, re-examined General Nutrition Knowledge Questionnaire; SES, socioeconomic class