This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Racial Differences in College Students’ Dietary Intake, Anthropometric Measures, Physical Activity, and Stress Levels




Tench, Ty-anne

Type of Degree



Nutrition and Food Science


Background: Approximately one-third of college students (33.7%) are overweight or obese. Additionally, three-fourths of American Americans are overweight or obese with higher risks of obesity-related diseases. Objective: To determine differences in dietary intake, anthropometric measures, physical activity, and stress levels between African American and White college students using baseline data for participants of Project Young Adults Eating and Active for Health (Project Y.E.A.H.). Methods: This is a cross-sectional, secondary data analysis of baseline data for African American (n=195) and White (n=1073) college students who attended thirteen different universities across the United States. Students were recruited using social media, newspaper advertisement, flyers, and emails through campus communication. Self-reported data on diet, physical activity, and stress levels were collected using online validated surveys completed by each participant. Height, weight, and waist circumference (WC) for all students were measured and recorded by trained study personnel. Data were analyzed using χ2 test, t-test, and Mann Whitney U. A level of significance was reached if the p-value was equal to or less than 0.05. Results: The sample (n=1268) consisted of 84.6% White and 68.5% female college students with a mean age of 19.35 years old. There was not a significant difference in gender, age, or year in school between African American (n=195) and White (n=1073) students. African Americans consumed significantly less cups of fruit (1.27 ± 1.26 vs. 1.78 ± 1.28, p<0.001), vegetables (1.09 ± 1.13 vs. 1.39 ± 1.24, p=0.003), and servings of whole grains (1.59 ± 1.38 vs. 2.26 ± 1.47, p<0.001) per day. African Americans also consumed more calories from sugar sweetened beverages (SSB) (283.67 ± 391.99 vs. 139.84 ± 195.00, p<0.001) and a higher estimated percentage of energy from fat (34.33 ± 6.26 vs. 30.77 ± 4.64, p<0.001) per day. Furthermore, African Americans had significantly higher measured BMI (25.99 ± 6.08 vs. 23.99 ± 4.07, p<0.001) and WC (85.36 cm ± 13.63 vs. 82.57 cm ± 10.74, p<0.001). Lastly, African Americans participated in less physical activity (1656.76 MET-min/week ± 1784.29 vs. 2421.94 ± 1662.01 MET-min/week, p<0.001) and had a significantly higher perceived stress score (23.61 ± 7.30 vs. 22.18 ± 7.09, p=0.013) compared to White college stduents.. Conclusions: African American college students are at a greater risk of becoming overweight or obese compared to White college students due to significantly lower fruit, vegetable, and whole grain consumption; significantly higher SSB and fat consumption; lower physical activity; and higher perceived stress. Culturally relevant interventions must be created in order to encourage African American college students to adopt a healthful lifestyle that with last a lifetime.