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The Dietary Habits of College Students: A Review of the Literature
Student Name
University Name
The Dietary Habits of College Students: A Review of the Literature
Between 2011 and 2012, approximately 17% of youth up to age 19 in the United States
were obese (Ogden, Carroll, Kit, & Flegal, 2014). This signifies that almost 1 in every 5 young
people living in the United States had a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or greater (Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2014). Twenty-two percent of college students report
being overweight, and dietary issues are a cause of the overweight (American College Health
Association [ACHA], 2009). The dietary habits of young adults are among the poorest of all age
groups, consisting of low rates of adherence to national recommendations for vegetable and fruit
intake and high rates of soft drink and fast-food consumption (Pelletier & Laska, 2012).
The nutrition goals of Healthy Campus 2010 included increasing the number of college
students who consume more than five servings of fruit and vegetables and who consume more
than three daily servings of dairy products (Freedman, 2010). However, few young adults
regularly engage in healthy dietary behaviors, such as taking time to prepare and eat regular
meals (Pelletier & Laska, 2012). The benefits that young people are missing include higher
dietary quality and better weight outcomes (Pelletier & Laska, 2012).
With these issues, any national or local goal for healthy eating among college students is
difficult to attain. The severity of poor eating habits can be quantified in their many negative
effects, including weight gain, risk for chronic physical and mental conditions, and decreased
academic performance (Freedman, 2010). This paper will review three research articles with the
purpose of exploring whether gender and ethnicity affect students’ eating habits, whether the
environment is a factor in the food choices that a student makes, and whether a student’s
academic commitment and performance impact his or her eating behavior. The terms “dietary
habits,” “eating habits,” and “eating behavior” will be used interchangeably to signify college
students’ patterns of behavior over time, regarding their consumption of food.
Literature Review
Gender and ethnicity as a link to students’ eating behavior: Several factors stood out
as potential indicators of unhealthy eating habits and poor health status in college students.
Freedman (2010) looked at gender and ethnicity among college freshmen and found that more
male freshmen are obese, compared to female freshmen. Freedman (2010) also found that more
underweight college freshmen were female. The population from which the sample was taken for
this study was suitable and had no ethnic majority. It presented itself as appropriate for relating
the results of college freshmen to the larger body of all levels of college students.
Pelletier and Laska (2012) studied a diverse sample of community college and public
university students and found that more female college students felt unable to balance healthy
eating habits, compared to male students. Despite the constraints to healthy dietary behavior in
both male and female students, male freshmen consumed dinner more frequently than did female
freshmen (Freedman, 2010). Asians made up the largest ethnic group among freshmen in this
study, and Freedman (2010) found that only 29% of Asian freshmen consumed dinner daily,
which could explain why more Asian freshmen were underweight compared to other groups.
Forty-seven percent of the freshmen who lived on campus and ate breakfast daily were white,
17% were Hispanic, and 5% were Asian (Freedman, 2010). This information shows that there is
a significant link between the gender of college students and their perception of healthy eating,
as well as a link between ethnicity and actual eating habits.
Residence and location of institution as a factor in the food choices that students
make: Within the literature, there also exists a link between environment and food choices in
college students. On-campus first-year students experienced a significant decline between past
and current intake of dairy, fruits, and vegetables, compared to off-campus first-year students
(Freedman, 2010). Out of the students who may or may not have experienced a great decline in
intake of healthy food, more overweight males lived off campus, and more overweight females
lived on campus (Freedman, 2010). In terms of meals, 72% of freshmen who ate breakfast daily
lived off campus (Freedman, 2010). While most students who ate breakfast lived off campus,
Pelletier and Laska (2012) found that women renting an apartment off campus had a lower
prevalence of perceiving time constraints to healthy eating habits as those living at home. While
off campus students exhibited a healthy eating behavior in eating breakfast, they also
demonstrated difficulty in maintaining other healthy dietary habits.
Davis and Carpenter (2009) engaged in research involving middle school and high school
students, and the results can be viewed as relevant to college students. Students who attended
schools located near fast-food restaurants were heavier than those who attended schools not
located near fast-food restaurants (Davis & Carpenter, 2009). Students who attended schools
located near fast-food restaurants also consumed fewer servings of fruits and vegetables than do
students at schools that are not located near fast-food restaurants (Davis & Carpenter, 2009).
Overall, it appears that living on campus has dietary effects on students comparable to being
closer to a fast-food restaurant.
Impact of academic commitment and performance on students’ dietary habits and
overall health: Explanations of why more male freshmen in Freedman’s (2010) research were
found to be obese, compared to female freshmen, could be because of personal or psychological
factors (such as school-related stress, pressure from family, gender-based expectations etc.) or
environmental factors (such as a new on-campus living experience or the availability of more
food options). However, too many perceived academic expectations appear to impact what
students eat and, ultimately, their health status. Earlier it was noted that more female college
students felt unable to balance healthy eating habits, compared to male students (Pelletier &
Laska, 2012). Most college students felt too busy with academic demands to be concerned with
their dietary habits (Pelletier & Laska, 2012). As Freedman (2010) noted, poor eating habits in
college students are linked to poor academic performance.
Many college students have poor dietary habits, and these poor habits have serious health
effects like weight gain (Freedman, 2010). More than 9 million U.S. children and adolescents are
obese, and we can expect many of these young people to enter college later in life as obese
(Davis & Carpenter, 2009). Until these dietary issues are addressed, obesity will remain a
difficult problem to solve (Freedman, 2010). As a response to these poor dietary habits in young
adults, there should be more weight gain prevention efforts, which would include efforts to
promote physical activity and healthy eating programs, seminars, and activities (Freedman, 2010).
While males in their freshmen year of college may have more weight issues, compared to
their female peers, female college students in general feel less able to manage their own eating
behavior. Ethnicity and living arrangements also have a strong connection with eating habits,
which affects weight and obesity. For example, Asian freshman in one study were found to have
less prevalence of eating breakfast or dinner and a higher prevalence of underweight. Of the
freshmen observed in Freedman’s (2010) research, and of the students of all class levels
observed in Pelletier’s and Laska’s (2010) research, the majority of those who engaged in a
healthy, yet simple, eating habit (eating breakfast) lived off campus. Certainly, the gender,
ethnicity, living environment, and academic commitment of college students interact and affect
what they eat.
This literature review exposed the significance of a number of topics appropriate for future
research that revolved around the themes of demographics, environment, and college academics.
The many benefits, including easier energy maintenance, of diets high in nutrient-dense foods,
such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products, suggest that new research is needed
(Freedman, 2010). Studies could include an examination of the ethnic and academic trends
associated with dietary behaviors and weight change in college students. Cultural factors, not only
ethnic factors, should be examined, in relation to their impact on dietary habits in college students.
New research should be able to answer the question, “what is it about Asian culture that results in
vastly different eating habits, compared to Whites, Black, and Hispanics?” Also, to examine the
demographic, environmental, and academic links to unhealthy eating behavior, a longitudinal
correlational study could be carried out, which could examine students over a number of years to
determine which factors make the most impact and which students gain or lose the most weight.
These findings would then be compared to existing findings in other literature.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About BMI for children and teens. (2014,
July 11). Retrieved from
Davis, B., & Carpenter, C. (2009). Proximity of fast-food restaurants to schools and adolescent
obesity. American Journal of Public Health, 99(3), 505-10.
Freedman, M. R. (2010). Gender, residence and ethnicity affect freshman BMI and dietary
habits. American Journal of Health Behavior, 34(5), 513-24.
Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D., Kit, B. K., & Flegal, K. M. (2014). Prevalence of childhood and
adult obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. The Journal of the American Medical
Association, 311(8), 806-14.
Pelletier, J. E., & Laska, M. N. (2012). Balancing healthy meals and busy lives: Associations
between work, school and family responsibilities and perceived time constraints among
young adults. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 44(6), 481-89.
The American College Health Association (ACHA). (2009). National College Health
Assessment, Spring 2008. Journal of American College Health, 2009(57), 477-88.
Steps in Conducting a Literature Review
o Provide a description of your topic and some basic background information about it. This section should prepare the
reader for the content of the paper and should attract the reader’s attention.
o Some questions you may use to guide the development of your introduction include:
What is the health topic and why is it important to human health?
What general data/information is there about the rates of disease, or the physical, emotional, social impacts of the
health topic?
How and why is this health topic relevant to college students?
What types of problems does this health topic create for college students?
o The introduction should include objective, factual information from reputable sources. This is not an opinion paper,
and therefore your own thoughts/judgments do not belong in this section.
o In this section, you may reference sources from your scholarly articles, but you may also use general information from
government websites or other established and legitimate websites (such as the American Lung Association, or the
American Cancer Society, of the American College Health Association).
o APA in-text citations must be used here and throughout the paper.
Literature Review
o In this section you will introduce the reader to the literature, using the guidelines for writing a literature review
outlined in class. For example, you may wish to group your scholarly articles by exposures, or outcomes, and discuss
them accordingly. As with the model literature review distributed in class, this section should include appropriate
headings and subheadings that provide a synthesis of these research studies identifying major areas of similarity or
o Under well-organized headings and sub-headings you should address the following questions:
What are the findings/results from the research articles that you located?
How do these findings relate to one another?
What major themes emerge from within the articles? Are there any key exposures or outcomes that are similar or
different any interesting or meaningful way?
What were some of the major discussion points in each of the articles and how do those discussion points relate to
one another?
Based on the article you reviewed, what are the most significant issues related to college students and your chosen
health topic?
o In this section you should describe the research and make connections (synthesize) among the research studies. The
sections should be well organized and should provide appropriate progression from one idea to the next.
o You should clearly highlight at least three (3) scholarly articles and their findings in this section.
o APA in-text citations must be used here and throughout the paper.
o You should provide a summary of the literature review and the major points learned. In two-three (2-3) paragraphs,
provide a comprehensive summary of your literature review and reemphasize the need for future research about your
What were the overall, major findings from your review of the literature? What were the key exposures and
or/outcomes identified?
What specific issues would benefit from future research based on your review of the literature?
What directions for future research are warranted, and why?
Literature review
Celena Curatolo
Monmouth University
November 5, 2017
A study conducted on the effect of drinking on university grades found that academic
motivation played a role in drinking choices as well as impacting on the grades. It was
hypothesized that drinking contributed to reduced academic motivation, which led to
decreased grades (Gilbert, 2014).
Time of academic year and gender
Academic motivation impacted time of year as well as gender. The period from the
end of Christmas exam up to charismas was accompanied by a decrease in academic
motivation. The motivation then increased from Christmas break until the first week of
school in January. This was then followed by a decline in academic motivation from the week
before reading week to the reading week. The study found that there was no gender
difference in the academic motivation levels.
Drinking on academic year and gender
The article showed gender similarities in drinking behaviors, but males had more
drinks than their female counterparts. During Christmas break, drinking was at the highest
level but lowest during December exams.
Weekly correlation between academic motivations with drinking
A negative correlation was found in the majority of weeks between drinking and
academic motivation. During the last two weeks to Christmas break, an increased drinking
resulted in decreased academic motivation. There was no major correlation noticed between
drinking and academic motivation during December exams.
Major themes
Drinking and faculty program
The study did not find any interaction between gender and faculty. However, a major
effect of gender was found whereby both genders had different drinking behaviors.
Additionally, the study found different behaviors between the faculties. Engineering students
took more drinks per week than their science colleagues. However, students of social science
had a higher mean number of drinks every week (Gilbert, 2014).
Academic motivation and faculty program
Effects of gender on the academic motivation did not change with faculty, meaning no
gender effects were found from the study. However, at least one faculty had a different level
of academic motivation.
Major discussion points
One of the significant discussions in the article is the impact of student drinking on
academic motivation as well as grades. The study found that students who drink mostly have
decreased academic motivation that led to low grades (Gilbert, 2014).
The article also discusses the gender difference between drinking and academic
motivation. Females who were academically motivated drank less. On the other hand,
academically motivated male students still drank. Thus, it was found that academic
motivation operated as a protective factor for females against drinking. However, it is not
clear whether an increase in academic motivation contributed to a decrease in drinking or
increased drinking led to decrease in academic motivation.
Another topic discussed in the article is the differences between the level of drinking
and faculties. It was found that students from faculties of engineering and social science
drank more than the students from the faculty of science. The differences were attributed to
cultural differences between the faculties. It could also be as a result of coping with stress
from faculties’ academic demands (Gilbert, 2014).
Disparities in the level of academic motivation between the faculties are also
discussed in the article. It is shown that students from the faculty of health science boasted of
greater academic motivation as compared to their social science counterparts.

Lastly, the most significant issues related to college students are the level of
academic motivation and drinking. Drinking and decreased academic motivation result in low
grades, which impairs achievements in life.
Gilbert, J. (2014). The Effects of Drinking on University Grades: Does Academic Motivation
Play a Role?.
Curatolo 1
Literature Review
Celena Curatolo
Monmouth University
November 12, 2017
Curatolo 2
Alcohol drinking in colleges
Drinking by students has become a common activity in the colleges. Students engage in
social activities such as drinking as a result of peer influence. This behavior is extremely
unbearable and not only does it pose a danger to health but also causes negative affect their
academic performance.
Alcohol consumption
The conducted research found that 85 percent of students were taking alcohol while only 15
percent had not consumed alcohol.
Etiology of alcohol consumption
Students were influenced by alcohol differently. Peer influence had the largest percentage of 51
percent while parents influenced 20 percent and nobody influenced 21 percent of the
Quantity of drinking
The research showed that 29 percent of students consumed more than 7 bottles of alcohol at a go,
65 percent consumed 3 to 6 bottles while only 6 percent took 1 to 2 bottles.
Missed classes or failed tests
Drinking of alcohol results in hangover and 66 percent of students were found to be affected by
hangover to the extent of missing class or failing tests.
Curatolo 3
Sanction at school/home
The result showed a grave consequence whereby 93 percent of students had been sanctioned for
consuming alcohol while only 7 percent had not been sanctioned.
Alcohol drinking and academic performance
The study shows there is a significant relationship between drinking and performance in
academics. Drinking …
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