Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

Assessment of Weight Status, Dietary Habits and Beliefs, Physical Activity, and Nutritional Knowledge among University Students

Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

Assessment of Weight Status, Dietary Habits and Beliefs, Physical Activity, and Nutritional Knowledge among University Students

Article excerpt


In the United States, the projected increase in prevalence of chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease (CVD), type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and certain types of cancer, is a major public health concern.1 researchers are predicting that by 2020, 157 million American adults will be living with at least one chronic condition, with 51.6% of those affected having multiple chronic conditions, compared to 133 million who had at least one chronic condition in 2005.1,2 This represents an 18% increase in those who will be living with at least one chronic condition in their lives. in addition, a 2013 report by the National research Council and institute of Medicine (NrC/iOM) warned that chronic diseases are not only adult-onset but are also affecting the younger generation.3 Modifiable health-risk behaviours, such as improper nutrition, physical inactivity, tobacco use, and excessive alcohol consumption, were among the factors contributing to this increase.3 Such unhealthy behaviours were found to be common among young adults.4-7

A recent report from the American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA), a nationwide survey conducted among university students at 2- and 4-year institutions in Spring 2013, indicated that more than one-third (34%) of the surveyed students were either overweight or obese, 93.7% did not consume the daily recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables, and 80% did not participate in at least 30 min of moderate-intensity activity at least 5 days per week.8 Other studies have also indicated unhealthy dietary practices among students, such as skipping meals, low consumption of fruits and vegetables, high intake of fast foods, and low intake of dairy products.9-11 These findings are worrisome and reinforce the need for early detection of unhealthy behaviours so appropriate lifestyle changes can be made before disease develops.12-16

College is a critical period when lifelong lifestyle habits are formed, which may have lasting impact on development of chronic diseases.17-23 in this regard, the US Surgeon General, in two previous reports titled 'The Surgeon General's Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation' and 'A Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity', identified universities and schools as sites to raise awareness and educate students about healthy behavioural choices including healthy dietary practices, regular physical activity, and weight control.24,25 Students need to be healthy, physically active, and well nourished in order to succeed in their academic studies.26 Nutrition education can have a profound impact on dietary habits and food choices of many college students.27-29 Thus, college represents a key opportunity for students to learn new skills and foster healthy lifestyle practices. Students are empowered when they have the necessary knowledge and skills needed to make healthy lifestyle choices.17,30,31

Given the alarming statistics about the projected increase in the prevalence of chronic disease among US adults,2 and given that Michigan is now the10th most obese state in the nation where obesity rate (2012) is 31.1%,32 assessing students' health-risk behaviours is important to help them reduce or prevent the development of chronic diseases later in life.33-39 Published research regarding health-risk behaviours among college students in Michigan is scarce.40 Literature indicates studies were conducted among middle-school students,41 female collegiate swimmers,42 or among college students but using selfreported weight and height.43 Thus, the main objective of this study was to assess in depth weight status, dietary habits, physical activity, dietary beliefs, and nutritional knowledge in a sample of college students from Central Michigan University (CMU). Outcomes of this study will help health educators to develop tailored interventions aimed at improving students' wellness.


Design and subjects

This study was a cross-sectional survey conducted at CMU during the fall of 2011 and spring 2012 semesters (October 2011-February 2012). …

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