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Reports the results of a survey which was conducted of 400 self-selecting UK subjects to assess understanding of nutritional terms and concepts. Analyses the results with respect to demographic criteria and finds good overall understanding, but there are some surprising misconceptions and a lack of understanding of recently introduced concepts. States that comprehension was clearly related to familiarity with the terminology employed. Nutritional myths and misconceptions were not widely held, although there were some discrepancies between expert and lay understanding (e.g. cholesterol popularly perceived as a type of saturated fat, and evening primrose oil as a vitamin). Despite some deficiencies in understanding, claims use of food label information in making purchasing decisions was extensive. Examines sources of background knowledge of food and nutrition, and of current fads and scare stories, and presents the results. Studies of nutritional understanding are seen as part of the wider domain of the public understanding of science.