Mood and food at the University of Turku in Finland: nutritional correlates of perceived stress are most pronounced among overweight students

Walid El Ansari, Sakari Suominen, Gabriele Berg-Beckhoff
International Journal of Public Health 2015, 60 (6): 707-16

OBJECTIVES: We examined perceived stress and food intake at University of Turku, Finland.

METHODS: This study was conducted as an online survey (1189 students). We computed two composite food intake pattern scores (sweets, cakes and snacks; fruits and vegetables), a dietary guideline adherence index, and the subjective importance of healthy eating. We assessed the correlations between perceived stress, and two food intake pattern scores, dietary guideline adherence index and subjective importance of healthy eating. We tested the associations between stress and the same variables, controlling for potential confounders for the whole sample, by gender, and by Body Mass Index (BMI).

RESULTS: Fruits and vegetables intake and dietary guideline adherence were both negatively associated with stress. These negative associations were more pronounced in overweight and less pronounced in underweight compared to healthy weight students. Sweets, cookies and snacks consumption were not associated with stress. Stress was associated with lower subjective importance of healthy eating, independent of gender and BMI.

CONCLUSIONS: Perceived stress might have relationships of different magnitudes in overweight vs. normal BMI or underweight persons. BMI could be an effect modifier of the stress-food habits association.

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