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New nutritional research: College students face obesity, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome

DURHAM, N.H. Obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and inactivity: theyre not just your fathers problems any more, University of New Hampshire research finds. New data on the widely unstudied demographic of college students indicates that this group of 18 24-year-olds are on the path toward chronic health diseases. Although limited, national data suggest the trend is not unique to UNH.

The UNH data, collected from more than 800 undergraduates enrolled in a general-education nutrition course, find that at least one-third of UNH students are overweight or obese, 8 percent of men had metabolic syndrome, 60 percent of men had high blood pressure, and more than two-thirds of women are not meeting their nutritional needs for iron, calcium or folate.

Theyre not as healthy as they think they are, says UNH lecturer Ingrid Lofgren, who is collecting and analyzing the data with her Nutrition in Health & Well Being co-teachers Joanne Burke and Ruth Reilly, both clinical assistant professors, and lecturer Jesse Morrell.

The researchers, who presented their findings at the recent Experimental Biology Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., initially asked students to engage in a variety of health-indicator screenings like blood pressure and cholesterol to bring the class alive with interactivity. They soon realized, however, that the size of the class (525 students per semester enroll in the course; 40 percent of UNH undergraduates take the course) gave them a gold mine of health information on a group about which little is known.

This is a very understudied population. Theyre very hard to reach, says Reilly, noting that large phone surveys of this age group, such as one conducted by the Centers for Disease Control in 2003, generally do not reach students at college or cell phones.

As part of the course curriculum, students conducted a range of health screenings on themselves, which the instructors say is an effective t
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Contact: Beth Potier
beth.potier@unh.edu
603-868-1566
University of New Hampshire
14-Jun-2007


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