Carla Fabián, MHSN, LND; Ideliz Pagán, MHSN; Josué L. Ríos, MHSN; Jesmari Betancourt, MHSN; Sonia Y. Cruz, MHSN, LND; Anaisa M. González, MHSN, LND; Cristina Palacios, PhD, MS, LND; Michael J. González, DSc, FACN, PhD; Winna T. Rivera-Soto PhD, MPH, LND
Objective: University students face academic responsibilities that may produce stress, which may lead to changes in dietary patterns (DPs). These changed patterns can become dysfunctional, often resulting in a negative impact on the health of the stressed student. Little is known about DPs in college students in Puerto Rico (PR). The purpose of this study was to describe the DPs of college students in PR and the association of these patterns with socio-demographic characteristics and perceived academic stress.
Methods: This retrospective epidemiological study investigated self-reported DPs in a representative sample of 275 college students, in relation to socio-demographic characteristics, body composition (BC), and perceived academic stress; a Diet Quality Index was developed using the USDA Food Patterns for 2010 to determine whether their DPs were adequate or inadequate.
Results: Most of the participating students were female (67.6%), ranged from 21 to 30 years old (88%), lived in low household incomes (42.7%), and had healthy weights (56.4%). Most of the students perceived the stress levels as being moderate (60.7%). Most had diets that were below the dietary recommendations for grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and protein, whereas fat consumption was adequate. Overall, most had inadequate DPs (62%). DP was significantly associated with age (p<0.05); older students had better DPs than did younger students. In terms of the different schools (p<0.05), those students from the School of Medicine and those from the School of Public Health had better DPs than did the students from the other schools. DP was not associated with income, gender, BMI, stress level, or course load.
Conclusion: The majority of the students had inadequate DPs, which inadequacy was associated with both the age of the student and the school that he or she attended.