2009 - 2010 Undergraduate Research in Nutrition and Food Science
Objective: Two-thirds of American adults and one-third of American children and adolescents are overweight or obese and these numbers continue to increase. The types of foods Americans consume contribute a great deal to this trend, particularly in college students. To better understand poor food selection in college students a study was conducted evaluating stress levels and unhealthy food choices in college females.
Methods: The students completed a survey that inquired information about their body mass index (BMI), stress levels, cause of stress, and the types of food they consume when they're stressed versus unstressed. 209 female college students at the University of Kentucky took part in this study (average age 20.3 years +/- 2.76 years and average BMI 22.2 +/- 3.4 kg/m2).
Results: 86% of the participants reported eating unhealthy foods when stressed; these foods consisted of ice cream/candy, fried food, fast food, and chips. In comparison, 88.5% of the participants reported that when they were unstressed they chose healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, sandwiches, or granola bars. Also, 65% of the participants that claimed to be healthy eaters consumed fast food on average of 1.9 +/- 0.6 times a week.
Conclusion: The results of this study show the impact of stress levels of college females on their choices of food, which could be a factor in the increasing obesity trend. The students need to be better educated about the damage they are doing to their bodies by eating unhealthy foods during stressful periods and informed how to correct these detrimental habits.