Eating Competence, Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors and Diet Quality in College students.
Students transitioning from high school to college experience challenging changes, and some may be detrimental to their health. Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is of primary concern in young adults; as CVD is the leading cause of death for both males and females.1 College students are at a crucial time in their lives to recognize risk factors contributing to CVD and to modify their diets to prevent the onset later in life.
Purpose: This study attempted to examine more in depth how eating competence (EC) is related to dietary intake of certain foods groups and cardiovascular risk factors including lipid profiles, blood pressure and fasting blood glucose.
Methods: Participants (n=68) were enrolled in an introductory nutrition course for non-majors. Participants' lipid profiles, (Total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and TG), blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose levels were collected as part of a laboratory exercise for the course. Lipid profiles were collected via Cholestec machine. Food group intakes were measured by a self-reported 3-day food record and analyzed by the Super Tracker website. Eating competence was assessed by the ecSatter Inventory (EcSI).
T tests were used to analyze for differences in EC between males and females as well as between groups that were EC and non-EC. Pearson correlation analysis was used to determine associations between EC and cardiovascular risk factors and food group intakes.
Results: Results indicate that 52.9% of the total sample was classified as EC (ecSI > 32). The percentage of males and females that were EC were 57.1% and 46.9% respectively. Overall, the mean total EC score was higher in males than females at 33.3 and 30.6 respectively although this was not statistically significant (p = .09). EC was significantly correlated with HDL (r=-.299; p=0.013) and DBP levels (r=-.285, p=.02). Food regulation subscale scores were significantly different between males and females (p=.01). There were no significant differences found between EC and non-EC groups for any variable.
Overall, the sample means for total cholesterol, LDL, HDL and TG were 160.9 mg/dL, 86.3 mg/dL, 56.5 mg/dL, and 101.4 mg/dL respectively. Between males and females, BMI (p=0.045) and HDL levels (p=0.029) were significantly different.
Percentages of males not meeting the requirements for whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy were 63%, 71.4%, 74.3% and 65.7% respectively. Percentages of females not meeting requirements for whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy were 81.3%, 59.4%, 71.9%, and 81.3% respectively. Dairy intake was statistically different between males and females with males consuming more (p=0.03). Vegetable intake between males and females was trending (p=0.054) but was not statistically significant.
Conclusions and Implications: Although males had higher ecSI scores than females, they were not significantly different. The majority of the sample was not meeting requirements for any of the food groups measured. For cardiovascular disease risk factors, the majority of the sample was meeting normal or optimal cutoff levels. In addition, males had lower HDL levels which is consistent with previous research.2 Overall, nutrition education could be tailored to increase eating competence in women and especially focused on food regulation components. Nutrition education in general could focus on meeting food group recommendations in this age group.
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Research Advisor: Alexa L. Evenson, PhD, MS, RDN, CFS