2010-2011 Undergraduate Research in Nutrition and Food Science
The obesity pandemic that has spread across America is also affecting students in universities across the nation. Research being done in the fields of biology, psychology, nutrition, and sociology are trying to pinpoint causes for the increased prevalence of obesity in our country. Lack of physical activity and poor diet are known contributors to weight gain. The purpose of this research was to evaluate the effects of built environment on freshman weight gain on a college campus. A survey was administered to 304 freshmen living on-campus at the University of Kentucky. Students were asked questions relating to their gender, age, weight, eating habits, and exercise habits. Students living on North campus gained an average of 1.33± 10.9 pounds more during the fall semester than students living on South campus (p= 0.25). Students on South campus exercised an average of 0.71 ± 2.62 days per week more than North campus students (p=0.007). Interestingly, 53% of North campus students reported eating at buffet style campus restaurants most often while only 38% of South campus students ate at the same restaurants. When comparing à la carte style restaurants, only 22% of North campus residents reported eating there frequently, while 46% of South residents ate à la carte frequently. This data suggests that food availability, rather than access to recreational facilities, may play a greater role in freshman weight gain. College students need to continue to be educated on importance of a well-balanced diet and physical activity in preventing weight gain and achieving optimal health while living in the dorms.