Breakfast consumption and the relationship to to socio-demographic and lifestyle factors of undergraduate students in the School of Health Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
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Introduction: Breakfast is commonly regarded as the most important meal of the day. The consumption of breakfast has been linked to various health benefits, and is widely acknowledged in available literature. There is improved nutrient intake in those who consume breakfast compared to those who skip breakfast. Consumption of breakfast leads to positive health behaviour, improved stress management, feeling energetic and making less unhealthy snack choices. On the other hand, neglecting breakfast can have negative implications, such as fatigue and decreased concentration. Furthermore, skipping breakfast is positively correlated with obesity risk. The high prevalence of overweight and obesity in South Africa could be linked to poor breakfast consumption habits and requires further investigation. Several studies have illustrated a high prevalence of breakfast skipping amongst the university student population worldwide, due to affordability and time management. It could be assumed that students studying towards qualifications in health sciences would be more inclined towards regular breakfast consumption, as part of a healthy lifestyle; however, further research is required to investigate this. Due to the paucity of data amongst South African university health science students, this study aimed to investigate breakfast consumption and the relationship to socio-demographic and lifestyle factors of undergraduate students in the School of Health Sciences, at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). Aim: To investigate breakfast consumption and the relationship to socio-demographic and lifestyle factors of undergraduate students in the School of Health Sciences at UKZN. Objectives: • To investigate breakfast consumption and the factors that influence breakfast consumption in undergraduate students in the School of Health Sciences at UKZN. • To determine the socio-demographic and lifestyle profile of undergraduate students in the School of Health Sciences at UKZN. • To determine if there was a correlation between breakfast consumption, socio-demographic profile, lifestyle indicators and Body Mass Index (BMI) among undergraduate students in the School of Health Sciences at UKZN. Methods: A cross-sectional, descriptive study was conducted on undergraduate students in the School of Health Sciences at UKZN, based at the Westville campus. A self-administered questionnaire consisting mainly of close-ended questions was used to collect data. Weight and height measurements were taken and used to calculate BMI. Results: Most participants were between 19 to 20 years of age, were females, lived at the university residence and were in their first year of study. Most reported their health status to be good or fair, did not smoke or consume alcohol and were physically active. Breakfast was consumed by 82.1% (n=284), however, only 50.5% (n=143) consumed it daily. Breakfast consumption was associated with lower levels of fatigue and higher levels of alertness. Ready to eat or instant breakfast cereals, tea or coffee, eggs and leftovers were popular breakfast choices. Reasons for consuming breakfast included: to satisfy hunger, for energy, to be alert, prevent fatigue and for health reasons. Breakfast was skipped due to a lack of time and a lack of appetite. A significant number of those who did not eat breakfast were in their third year of study, were smokers and consumed fast foods or take-away foods frequently. Daily breakfast intake was found among a significant proportion of Indian and white participants, those who lived at home and those whose parents or family were responsible for purchasing groceries. This study found no relationship between breakfast consumption and BMI. Conclusion: The majority of students at the School of Health Sciences at UKZN consumed breakfast; however, not all consumed it regularly. Breakfast was consumed to achieve satiety, provide energy, be alert, prevent fatigue and for health reasons. Barriers to breakfast consumption included a lack of time and a lack of appetite. There was no relationship between breakfast consumption and BMI. Given its health and nutritional benefits, regular breakfast consumption should be encouraged among university students.