When you tell students, this is your data, they sit up and pay attention, adds Morrell.
Students completed questionnaires on their lifestyle behaviors and dietary habits, chronicling their smoking, exercise, alcohol consumption, and consumption of fruits and vegetables. Their body mass index (BMI) was calculated from their height and weight, their waist circumference was measured, and they were screened for blood pressure as well as glucose, triglycerides, total cholesterol, and high-density cholesterol. The students also completed a three-day food diary and analyzed their calories, carbohydrates, and nutrient intakes with nutrition software.
Individual results shocked many of the students, and the aggregated data contradicted the notion that college students are at the peak of health. Metabolic syndrome, a cluster of five risk factors (high blood pressure, excess abdominal fat, high blood glucose, high triglycerides, and low HDL or good cholesterol) that are predictive of future development of heart disease and diabetes, is particularly prevalent in males. Sixty-six percent of males (compared to 50 percent of females) had at least one risk for metabolic syndrome, and eight percent of males had metabolic syndrome.
These individuals, if they continue on this trajectory, are going to be much more of a health burden at age 50 than their parents are, says Burke.
The vast majority of students 95 percent of women and 82 percent of men are not meeting nutrient recommendations for fiber. Womens intake of the important nutrients iron (23 percent meet recommendations), calcium (33 percent meet recommendations) and folate (32 percent meet recommendations) are remarkably low. Twenty-three percent of men and 34 percent of women participated in less than 30 minutes of activity per day.