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College Students' Eating Habits Could Set Them Up For Problems Later In Life

Posted January 15, 2002

— College is a time for learning, but many college students are getting some bad information when it comes to taking care of their health. We tend to think of students eating lots of pizza and fast food, but a new study gives us a more realistic look at what college kids really eat.

Researchers at Tufts University in Boston followed a large number of students through all four years of college. They discovered that what students eat now is likely setting them up for health problems later in life.

College is a time to feed the brain. Now, a new study paints a grim picture of what college students are feeding their bodies.

Research shows that nearly 70 percent of college students do not eat the recommended five-a-day servings of fruits and vegetables. Another surprising finding is that many college students are iron deficient.

One reason is that more than 30 percent of students surveyed do not eat red meat. Many of them gave it up, thinking it would be more healthy.

"They want to follow a pathway to better health, when indeed, when we look at the research, it did not appear that way," researcher Christina Economos said.

In fact, non-meat-eaters had about the same cholesterol levels as meat eaters. Experts believe it is because they do not replace the meat with high-protein alternatives. Instead, they tend to eat more carbohydrates and empty calories.

College students blame it on mixed messages.

"You get these health and beauty magazines that throw out little tidbits of information. Chocolate is great. Eat as much as you want. Don't eat red meat," said study participant Allison Collins.

Campus dietitians across the country are developing programs to help students make wise choices. They said college is the perfect time to lay down lifelong healthy habits.

"It's part of building the complete person and we have an unique opportunity during the college years to do that," Economos said.

Another interesting finding of the study is that the Freshman 15 may need to be called the Freshman 5. After their first year, the female college students surveyed had gained on average four-and-a-half pounds. The males gained five.


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