Determining the relationship between added sugar intake and body mass index (BMI) among undergraduate students between the ages of 18-25 years studying at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg campus.
Nakhooda, Ra’eesah Ismail.
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Chronic diseases of lifestyle are a major contributor towards the increased incidence of mortality and morbidity among individuals worldwide. In conjunction with this, dietary and lifestyle modifications have contributed towards the overweight and obesity problem. Recent but not conclusive evidence has suggested that the consumption of added sugars, particularly from sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) could be the driving force behind this problem. University students are vulnerable to these dietary and lifestyle changes as they are exposed to a new environment in which independent food choices have to be made. Unfortunately the influence of the food environment often results in poor dietary habits. Determining the relationship between added sugar intake and body mass index (BMI) among undergraduate students between the ages of 18-25 years studying at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), Pietermaritzburg campus. To determine: the demographic characteristics of the students such as age, gender, race and place of residence; the BMI of the students; the dietary intake of added sugar from foods and beverages among the students; the association between the dietary intake of added sugar and the students’ BMI; the consumption and consumption patterns of sugar sweetened beverages; the influence of demographic characteristics on the dietary intake of added sugars and the factors that influence the intake of SSBs. A cross sectional study was conducted on 387 undergraduate students between the ages of 18-25 years attending UKZN, Pietermaritzburg. Non-probability sampling was used to recruit the students. A three part questionnaire was used to gather information on anthropometric measurements, demographic characteristics, and a 24 hour dietary recall and a Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ) was used to assess the added sugar intake among the subjects. The study population consisted of 33.1% male subjects and 66.9% female subjects. Most of the subjects were from the Black African race group (90.4%), followed by the Indian (7%), Coloured (2.1%) and White (0.5%) race group. A vast majority of the subjects lived away from home (76.7%). A significant number of the subjects were within the normal BMI classification (64.9%) and the mean BMI of the subjects was 23.5kgm2. The prevalence of overweight and obesity was higher among the female (22% and 11.5%) than male subjects (13.3% and 2.4%) and more male subjects were within the normal BMI category (77.3%). Significant differences were observed between the subjects BMI and the consumption of some food and beverage items listed in the FFQ. Subjects with a higher BMI consumed flavoured milks less often, and consumed a greater amount of ice cream and a smaller amount of hard boiled sweets. The frequency of consumption of the foods and beverages that contained added sugar was significantly higher among the female subjects, and the male subjects consumed significantly greater amounts of these foods and beverages. Differences were observed in the consumption of added sugars across the genders, races and place of residence. Subjects that lived at home and that were Indian and female consumed most of the food and beverage categories that contained added sugars more frequently. Taste and price significantly influenced the students’ consumption of SSBs. The most frequent place of purchase and consumption of SSBs as reported by the subjects were supermarkets and on campus respectively. Most of the subjects were within the normal BMI classification. Approximately one third of the subjects were overweight or obese, however there were more overweight subjects. The prevalence of overweight and obesity was higher among the female subjects. The subjects’ diet lacked variety, and the frequency of consumption of added sugars from the various food and beverage categories was relatively high among the sample population. Differences with regards to the consumption of added sugars were observed across the categories of gender, race and place of residence. Factors such as taste and price greatly influenced the students’ consumption of SSBs. Although significant differences between BMI and the intake of some sugar containing foods and beverages existed, this aspect requires further exploration among university students. The poor dietary habits among the university students as well as the prevalence of overweight and obesity among this population group, highlight the fact that there is a great need for strategies to be implemented in order to promote healthier dietary and lifestyle habits among young adults.