2007 -2009 Undergraduate Research in Nutrition and Food Science
Background: An increase in fast food consumption by college students is a major concern for the growing obesity epidemic in America. A busy life and lack of nutritional education combined with the ease and price of fast food has lead to an increase in weight gain due to fast food consumption.
Subjects/Setting: The relationship between fast food consumption and weight gain was investigated in 199 male and female students at the University of Kentucky, ranging in age from 18-24 years old. The height of the participants ranged from 4’10” to 6’6” (mean 5’8”) with an average body mass index (BMI) of 22.49 +/- 4.15 kg/m2.
Results: The subjects were surveyed on habits such as how often they consumed fast food per week, the type of fast food they consumed, and also the amount of physical activity performed per week. The participants were also asked to identify the reasons they eat fast food, as well as their knowledge of what trans fats are. The males surveyed gained an average of 4.82 lbs since entering college and the females an average of 5.9 lbs since entering college. The students who said they ate fast food 0-1 times per week reported an average weight gain of 1.8 lbs, compared to the average weight gain of 12.57 lbs seen with the people who reported to eating fast food 7 times per week (p<0.05). The type of fast food consumed was also important, for the participants who consumed McDonalds 6 or more times per week saw an average weight gain of 9.42 lbs, compared to the average weight gain of 4.15 lbs seen with the individuals who consumed Subway 6 or more times per week (p>0.05).
Conclusions: This data shows that the type and frequency of fast food leads to weight gain in the college student, and that a majority of college students do gain weight for this reason. Making healthier menu choices, increasing nutritional knowledge, and increasing physical activity can help prevent the obesity epidemic that is increasing across the nation.