Poor eating habits in college can lead to long-term health problems

Obesity-related eating behaviors a major public health concern.


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The significance of healthy eating habits for students cannot be overstated, as poor dietary choices can have lasting consequences on their well-being. The impact of inadequate nutrition extends far beyond immediate effects, potentially setting the stage for a lifetime of illness. 

This essay delves into the relationship between a student’s eating habits and long-term health outcomes, emphasizing the importance of promoting healthy dietary practices to safeguard their overall well-being.

By examining the potential health risks associated with poor eating habits, we can better understand the profound influence of nutrition on students’ lives and the urgency to foster a culture of healthy eating.

A recent study by Dr. Joan Bottorff, a Professor at UBC Okanagan’s School of Nursing, sheds light on the potential long-term health consequences of poor eating habits developed during post-secondary education. The new study, which involved nearly 12,000 medical students from 31 universities in China, aimed to explore the link between eating behaviors, obesity, and various diseases. 

The findings suggest that individuals who maintain unhealthy eating patterns during their university years may be at a higher risk of developing health issues such as obesity, respiratory illnesses, and depression. 

This research serves as a cautionary reminder of the importance of promoting healthy eating habits among students to prevent future health complications.

The point, says Dr. Bottorff, is that many poor eating habits begin at university and can continue for decades.

Dr. Bottorff said, “We know many students consume high-calorie meals along with sugary foods and drinks, and there is lots of evidence to show those kinds of eating behaviors can lead to obesity. These are not the only habits that lead to obesity, but they are important and can’t be ruled out.”

A recent study by Dr. Shihui Peng of Jinan University’s School of Medicine reveals a strong association between poor eating habits and infectious diseases like colds and diarrhea. While causality could not be definitively proven, the research supports the link between unhealthy diets, obesity, and respiratory illnesses. 

He highlights existing biomedical evidence linking obesity to infectious diseases, including COVID-19, due to impaired breathing and compromised immune responses. 

The study emphasizes the long-term consequences of high-sugar or high-calorie diets common among students, leading to obesity and a bidirectional relationship with stress, anxiety, and depression.

Addressing these risk patterns is vital, considering the prevalence of unhealthy diets among young people and their impact on chronic and infectious diseases.

He emphasizes the responsibility of universities to provide healthy and affordable food options for students and teach them about healthy eating habits. Collaborative efforts between UBC Student Wellness and Food Services address food security and promote food literacy, offering low-barrier food banks and meal share programs for needy students.

University of British Columbia (UBCO) Food Services prioritizes locally sourced, organic, and sustainable ingredients, providing diverse food choices with the guidance of a registered dietitian. While improvements have been made, such as rearranging vending machine contents, there is still progress in enhancing food offerings at post-secondary institutions.

In conclusion, this study highlights the significant impact of poor eating habits on a student’s long-term health. Unhealthy diets are strongly linked to obesity, respiratory illnesses, and infectious diseases, emphasizing the importance of promoting healthy eating habits among students.

Educational institutions have a crucial role to play by providing affordable and nutritious food options and fostering a supportive food environment. By addressing these issues and promoting food literacy, universities can protect the well-being of their student population and contribute to a healthier future for individuals and society at large.

Journal Reference:

  1. Sihui Peng , Dan Wu, Tingzhong Yang, et al.Do obesity-related eating behaviors only affect chronic diseases? A nationwide study of university students in China. Science Direct. Preventive Medicine Reports. DOI:10.1016/j.pmedr.2023.102135


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