Is Healthier Nutrition Behaviour Associated with Better Self-Reported Health and Less Health Complaints? Evidence from Turku, Finland

Walid El Ansari, Sakari Suominen, Gabriele Berg-Beckhoff
Nutrients 2015 October 14, 7 (10): 8478-90
We examined nutrition behaviour, self-reported health and 20 health complaints of undergraduates in Finland. Students at the University of Turku in Finland participated in a cross-sectional online survey (N = 1189). For nutrition behaviour, we computed two composite food intake pattern scores (sweets, cakes and snacks; and fruits and vegetables), a dietary guideline adherence index and the subjective importance of healthy eating. Multinomial logistic regression assessed the association of students' nutrition behaviour with three levels of self-reported health, controlling for many potential confounders (age, sex, living with partner, economic situation, moderate physical activity, Faculty and BMI). Factor analysis of the 20 health complaints revealed three components (psychological, pains/aches and circulatory/breathing symptoms). Multiple linear regression tested the association of students' eating habits with the three components of health complaints, controlling for the same confounders. Fruits and raw and cooked vegetable consumption, dietary guideline adherence index and subjective importance of healthy eating were highest among students with excellent/very good self-reported health, exhibiting a decreasing trend for those individuals with poor/fair self-reported health. High levels of psychological symptoms were associated with decreased consumption of fruits and vegetables, less dietary guideline adherence and less subjective importance of healthy eating. Pain/aches symptoms were associated with a higher consumption of sweets, cookies and snacks and a lower adherence to dietary guidelines. More healthy nutrition behaviour was consistently associated with better self-reported health and less health complaints. Of the four nutrition behaviour indicators we employed, the dietary guideline adherence index was the best indicator and exhibited the most consistent associations with self-reported health and health complaints.

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