Obesity risk among university students

Research by the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country explores the association between unhealthy lifestyles and the overweight/obesity risk

  • Research

First publication date: 27/07/2021

Nerea Telleria and Marta Arroyo. Photo: Nuria Gonzalez. UPV/EHU

The results of the study conducted among UPV/EHU students suggest that certain unhealthy habits coexist, interact with each other and increase the risk of overweight/obesity in this population. In addition, there are gender-specific differences in the associations observed between lifestyles and overweight/obesity, so these should be borne in mind when considering preventive interventions in this setting.

The British Journal of Nutrition has published the paper entitled ‘Risk factors of overweight/obesity-related lifestyles in university students: Results from the EHU12/24 study’, authored by Nerea Telleria-Aramburu and Marta Arroyo-Izaga, researchers in the Nutrition and Bromatology area of the Department of Pharmacy and Food Sciences of the UPV/EHU. The work explores the prevalence and interaction of overweight/obesity-related lifestyles in a representative sample of UPV/EHU students.

The research is part of the EHU12/24 project, a cross-sectional observational study designed to assess the prevalence of excess body fat (BF), and the risk factors and prevention of overweight/obesity in university students. To conduct this study, information was collected on diet, physical activity, sedentary lifestyle, sleep, toxic habits, as well as anthropometric measurements, in a cohort comprising 603 students.

It is worth pointing out that among the results obtained, the prevalence of overweight/obesity, based on the BF percentage, was 14.4%. In addition, the meal pattern including the number of snacks, the time between them and their duration, among other variables, was correlated with diet quality. And healthy eating habits were related to other healthy lifestyles, above all physical activity, sedentary behaviour, toxic habits and sleep.

Students who were in the habit of eating breakfast alone displayed a greater risk of being overweight/obese. At the same time, in men, a low/moderate physical activity level, skipping breakfast or having a frugal breakfast and not eating an adequate number of meals were associated with an increased risk of having excess body fat. Whereas, in women, the variables that were associated with an increased risk of overweight/obesity were moderate/high alcohol consumption and an insufficient amount of sleep.

"What is novel about the publication lies in the combined analysis of lifestyles associated with overweight/obesity among university students. To date, most of the work has focused on only one or on a few lifestyles, even though there is evidence relating to the coexistence, interaction and increased risk of disease," explained Marta Arroyo.

So the study confirms that certain unhealthy lifestyle habits coexist, interact with each other and increase the risk of overweight/obesity in the university student population. The gender-specific differences observed in the associations between lifestyles and overweight/obesity have important implications when considering preventive interventions in this setting. However, further studies are needed to confirm the complex interconnection between the underlying factors of overweight/obesity in students.

Bibliographic reference