WEDNESDAY, July 3, 2019 (HealthDay News) — During the first year of university life, both male and female students make poor dietary choices, which are associated with increases in body weight and fat composition; however, male students appear to be affected more than female students, according to a study published online July 3 in PLOS ONE.

Kayleigh M. Beaudry, from Brock University in St. Catharines, Canada, and colleagues surveyed 301 students (including 229 women) using food frequency questionnaires. Students also had their body weight, body composition, and waist and hip circumference measured at the beginning and end of their first year of university.

The researchers found that students gained body weight and fat during the year, as well as body mass index (BMI). Compared to female students, male students gained more weight, fat mass, lean mass, and BMI, and had greater increases in waist circumference and waist:hip ratio. Over the year, energy intake remained the same for both sexes, with an accompanying increase in alcohol in both sexes, which was greater in male students than female students. Diet quality decreased in both sexes, with lower intake of healthy foods/beverages (e.g., yogurt, cheese, oatmeal, breads, rice, pasta, vegetables, green salad, fruits, steak, fish, nuts, and milk), but higher intake of unhealthy foods and beverages (e.g., donuts/cakes, fried chicken, beer, and liquor). Changes in some dietary intake correlated with changes in fat mass and waist circumference, indicating that poor dietary choices were associated with increased adiposity.

“Our results can be used to inform effective sex-specific strategies and interventions to improve dietary habits during the transition to university life,” the authors write.

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