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Risk Factors Associated with Overweight and Obesity among College Students

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Nutrition
Wordcount: 1858 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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The study emphasized how overweight between children aged six to eleven years old and obesity between adults aged twenty to seventy-four have increased significantly (Desai, Miller, Stapled & Bravender, 2008, p. 109). Adolescents at this period are highly susceptible and are more prone to make changes, acquire and develop routines that they can take along into adulthood that will influence their life. Behaviors such as lifestyle habits, diet and physical activity are recognized in the article (Desai et al., 2008, p. 109). Medical textbooks and studies have revealed that overweight and obesity are major risk factors that contributes to the development of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease and dyslipidemia. Irregular eating habits and dependence to fast  foods  and  junk foods  of  an  adolescent even though it does not  have any  nutritional value contributes to the  development  of  overweight  and obesity (Rathus, Longmuir, Berk & Rogerson, 2018, p. 201. In another study conducted, it was stated that there was little progress made in the prevention of obesity because of its complexity (Sparling, 2007, para. 3). The concern regarding student’s use of alcohol, drugs and sexuality overshadows the need to focus on this topic (Sparling, 2007, para. 5). This study was conducted because the researchers wanted to find out the relationship of abnormal eating attitudes or specific behaviors to the development of this disorders. The researchers believed that identification of these risk factors will assist in the development of effective interventions.

Purpose of Study

The researchers desired to recognize risk factors to help understand the development of overweight and obesity from adolescence to adulthood as well as contribute to the development of an effective intervention in treating overweight and obesity. The researchers focused to identify the contribution of abnormal eating attitudes and behaviors in the development of overweight and obesity in adolescence.


The participants in the research study are undergraduates from three universities in North Carolina with a total number of 5,144 respondents. The researchers used a survey method via e-mail which includes variables such as age, weight, extracurricular activities, athletic participation and eating disorder history (Desai et al., 2008, p. 110). Along with the survey questions, the researchers also included the Eating Attitudes Test-26 questionnaire (EAT-26) which was designed after the EAT-40 questionnaire of Garnel and Garfinkel used to screen anorexia symptoms (Desai et al., 2008, p. 110). The survey question is scored on a 6-point forced Likert scale ranging from 1 (never) to 6 (always). On the EAT-26 questionnaire, scores greater than or equal to 2

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(≥20) are indicative of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa whereas scores that are greater than or equal to 11 (≥11) are related with an increased risk for binge eating disorder (Desai et al., 2008 p. 110). In the research study there were only 5,144 respondents in all three universities who were able to complete the survey because of e-mail server difficulties. After elimination based criteria are set by the researchers, only a total of 4,201 respondents out of 5,144 respondents remain qualified/eligible for analysis (Desai et al., 2008 p. 110).

The participants in the research study were categorized into two groups according to the participant’s BMI. One group involved participants whose BMI falls under the normal-weight category of less than or equal to 18.5 (≤ 18.5) and less than or equal to 25 (≤25). While the other group  involved  participants whose  BMI fall under  the overweight category with a BMI of less than  or  equal to  25 (≤ 25) and less  than  or  equal  to 30 (≤ 30)  or  obese with  a  BMI greater  than or equal to 30 (≥ 30) (Desai et al., 2008, p. 110). BMI and total EAT-26 score were identified to be the dependent variable in the study. In addition, researchers also evaluated the relationship between BMI and abnormal behavior such as purging, excessive physical activity and previous treatment for eating disorders (Desai et al., 2008, p. 110). Social affiliation of the participants in sororities or  fraternities were also used as a criteria to determine whether it contributes to risk factor for overweight or obesity in comparison to the general population of undergraduates (Desai et al., 2008, p. 110).

In order to analyze the data that was gathered, the researchers utilized W test, Pearson’s chi-square test and Regression analysis were applied by using Stata 8.0. According to Desai et al., (2008) the Wilcoxon rank sum test evaluated the relationship between BMI and the variables such activity level, extreme weight loss measures and social affiliations (p. 110). On the other hand, the Pearson’s chi-square tests evaluated the relationship of overweight with specific EAT-26 cut-off scores, physical inactivity, purging behaviors and previous treatment for eating disorders (Desai et al., 2008, p. 110). The researchers used logistic regression to determine the relationship between overweight status and the same independent variables (Desai et al., 2008, p. 110).


 Results in the research study presented that the eligible respondents were 67% of female and 99% of this respondents were 18 years old and above (Desai et al., 2008, p. 110). There were 78.5% respondents under the normal weight category, 16.8% were overweight and 4.7% under the obese category (Desai et al., 2008, p. 110). The study emphasized that a higher average of total EAT-26 scores were seen/identified among overweight or obese respondents as compared to those respondents within the normal-weight category (Desai et al., 2008, p. 110).

31.9% of the respondents under the overweight category had an EAT-26 score of ≥11 while 27.8% of those respondents under the normal-weight category had a score of ≥11 (Desai et al., 2008, p. 110-111).

 It was found out that about 11.4% of the overweight respondents expressed fear in engaging in bingeing episodes without stopping while 8% of the normal-weight respondents expressed the same views (Desai et al., 2008, p. 111). Among the respondents, 33.3% of overweight individuals are greatly preoccupied with food and 42.4% have a great desire to be thin as compared to those who were normal-weight (Desai et al., 2008, p. 111).

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 The study showed that there is a connection between BMI and the variables such as physical activity, prior treatment for eating disorder, year in college and social affiliation. 46 % of overweight individuals reported to have complete physical inactivity resulting to a higher than average BMIs (Desai et al., 2008, p. 111). It was evident that respondents who are in their higher years have increased BMI and other factors such as previous treatment for an eating disorder as well as individuals with no social affiliation while in school tend to have a higher than average BMI (Desai et al., 2008, p. 111).


 College students are in their period of life where they are open to change and challenges to reassess certain aspects of their life. Lack of physical activity is a big risk factor that contributes to the development of overweight and obesity. Among college students, female most likely have the desire to preserve a thin figure due to the standards of beauty set by society. Overweight and obese individuals experiment with different diets and some may adapt bingeing behaviors to reach and maintain their goal.

The research findings suggest that factors such as distorted eating behaviors and perceptions are associated to overweight and obesity. Identification of these factors may help facilitate and improve the current interventions to create an effective treatment to help the involved individuals. Based on the research study, the selected questions from the EAT-26 survey are helpful identifiers for disordered behaviors in overweight or obese students (Desai et al., 2008, p. 112).

Overweight and obesity remain a treatment challenge because of limited understanding to the barriers of weight loss and how to deal with it. In anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, psychological factors are taken into consideration and behaviors and disordered attitudes were addressed in their treatment (Desai et al., 2008, p. 112). An encompassing approach is advised to treat these conditions, such as education about healthy eating attitudes, emotional strengthening, personality evaluation as well as behavior modification (Desai et al., 2008, p. 113). A combination of these will likely produce a more effective treatment plan rather than being focused on maintaining weight numbers.

Physical activity decrease during the college years and development of a sedentary lifestyle increases as an individual age. According to the research study, numerous literatures have shown that about 20% to 60% of college students do not meet minimum physical activity recommendations (Desai et al., 2008, p. 113). An active lifestyle is recommended such as walking, running and jogging for thirty minutes a day or adopting a sport like basketball, swimming, soccer as well as yoga and dancing. These activities together with intensive counselling and behavioral programming are more likely to be effective in treatment of overweight status and obesity.

Future research should be done because of the limitations and challenges encountered in this research study (Desai et al., 2008, p. 113). Longitudinal studies should be included so researchers can look more closely after a certain period and evaluate the determinants of obesity. Other factors can impact the development of unhealthy attitudes or healthy attitudes in adolescents once they graduate from college. Financial status can be a barrier to adolescents while they are in college but after graduation, if they have the financial means and capability to sustain the lifestyle they could not afford beforehand, then this will be a turning point for them in their adulthood.


  • Desai, M. N., Miller, W. C., Staples, B., & Bravender, T. (2008). Risk factors associated with overweight and obesity in college students. Journal of American College Health, 57(1), 109-114. doi: 10.3200/JACH.57.1.109-114
  • Rathus, S., Longmuir, S., Berk, L. E., & Rogerson, R. (2017). HDEV (3rd Canadian ed.). Toronto: Nelson.


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