JOURNAL ARTICLE

Eating habits and obesity among Lebanese university students

Najat Yahia, Alice Achkar, Abbass Abdallah, Sandra Rizk
Nutrition Journal 2008 October 30, 7: 32
18973661

BACKGROUND: In the past year Lebanon has been experiencing a nutritional transition in food choices from the typical Mediterranean diet to the fast food pattern. As a consequence, the dietary habits of young adults have been affected; thus, overweight and obesity are increasingly being observed among the young. The purpose of this study is to assess the prevalence of overweight and obesity on a sample of students from the Lebanese American University (in Beirut) and to examine their eating habits.

METHODS: A cross-sectional survey of 220 students (43.6% male and 56.4% female), aged 20 +/- 1.9 years, were chosen randomly from the Lebanese American University (LAU) campus during the fall 2006 semester. Students were asked to fill out a self-reported questionnaire that included questions on their eating, drinking and smoking habits. Also, their weight, height, percentage body fat and body mass index were measured. Body mass index (BMI) was used to assess students' weight status. Statistical analyses were performed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences software (version 13.0) to determine overweight and obesity among students and to categorize eating habits.

RESULTS: This study showed that the majority of the students (64.7%) were of normal weight (49% male students compared to 76.8% female students). The prevalence of overweight and obesity was more common among male students compared to females (37.5% and 12.5% vs. 13.6% and 3.2%, respectively). In contrast, 6.4% female students were underweight as compared to 1% males. Eating habits of the students showed that the majority (61.4%) reported taking meals regularly. Female students showed healthier eating habits compared to male students in terms of daily breakfast intake and meal frequency. 53.3% of female students reported eating breakfast daily or three to four times per week compared to 52.1% of male students. There was a significant gender difference in the frequency of meal intake (P = 0.001). Intake of colored vegetables and fruits was common among students. A total of 30.5% reported daily intake of colored vegetables with no gender differences (31.5% females vs. 29.2% males). Alcohol intake and smoking were not common among students.

CONCLUSION: In spite of the overall low prevalence of overweight and obesity in the studied sample, results indicate that university students would possibly benefit from a nutrition and health promotion program to reduce the tendency of overweight and obesity, especially among male students, and to improve students' eating habits.

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