An Examination of Sex Differences in Relation to the Eating Habits and Nutrient Intakes of University Students

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National Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior

College students aren’t eating even as much as a serving a day of fruits and vegetables – though nutritional guidelines call for at least five, this new report found.

Researchers who performed the study looked at the eating habits of 582 college students at Oregon State University, many of whom were freshmen. Among the participants, 172 were male and 316 were female.

The study found that both female and male students were not consuming the proper amounts of fruits and vegetables. Female students reported eating about four servings of fruits and vegetables each week, while male students said they had about five servings per week.

In addition, both female and male students were consuming more than 30 percent of their calories from fat, though fat consumption no higher than 30 percent per week is recommended.

Female students also had low fiber intake, while male students tended to consume more fat content in their diet. Female students consumed about 16 grams of fiber each day, while males’ fiber intake was at about 22 grams each day. On the other hand, females’ diet consisted of 30.5 percent fat, while males’ were at 32.4 percent.

Overall, women had better eating habits than their male counterparts – they skipped few meals, read food labels and ate in college dining halls more often than males. However, female students still consumed less fiber and fewer servings of fruits and vegetables than male students did.

The study suggests that male students have a more urgent need to reduce fat content, whereas female students should increase fiber intake as well as fruit and vegetable consumption.

Researchers note that this study was limited to self-selected volunteers enrolled in a required fitness and nutrition class at a single university and in a single academic year. They said it is unclear whether their behaviors and practices can be applied to all college students in the United States.

An abstract is free at http://www.jneb.org/article/S1499-4046%2810%2900533-6/abstract.  The five-page report is $25.