Eating Perceptions Of University Students Who Are Following A Special Restrictive Diet: The Food And Health Survey
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University of Washington Abstract Eating Perceptions Of University Students Who Are Following A Special Restrictive Diet: The Food And Health Survey Francesca Simonella Chair of the Supervisory Committee: Marian L. Neuhouser, PhD, RD Department of Epidemiology Background: Many consumers follow food restrictions, sometimes based on unregulated sources of information. The goal of this study was to evaluate the eating perceptions of university students who are following a restrictive diet. Methods: The Food and Health survey was a cross-sectional study of students of the University of Washington (UW). Inclusion criteria were being a non-pregnant student older than 18 years and following a diet described by at least one of the following characteristics: gluten-free, dairy-free, genetically modified organisms-free, Paleolithic or other. The survey included questions on socio-demographics, diet restrictions, food- and health-related knowledge, diagnosis, sources of diet information and perceptions of RDs. Results were summarized with descriptive statistics. The Fisher’s Exact test (α=0.05) calculated an exact probability value for the relationship between: 1) single socio-demographic variables and single diet features, 2) expected and observed physical improvement since diet initiation, and 3) medical necessity for and adherence to a gluten-free diet. Results: A total of 47 participants completed the survey. The typical respondent was female (72.4 %), younger than 24 (44.7%), non-Hispanic (93.6%), white (72.3%), undergraduate (46.8%) and with sufficient funds for monthly food purchases (61.7%). Respondents followed varied combinations of diet restrictions, with “gluten-free” the most frequently reported (42.6%). A higher percentage of females than males was following a diet that was at least gluten-free (p<0.05). The majority of the respondents had started their diet to improve physical symptoms (63.8%) and a significantly higher percentage of these respondents than those with other reasons to start a diet achieved such goal (p<0.01). Also, two thirds of the respondents reported a medical condition and a significantly higher percentage of those with gluten- related disorders than other diagnoses reported following a gluten-free diet (p<0.01). The most common diagnosis providers were medical doctors (58.1%) and self (32.3%) while only 19.4% received a diagnosis by RDs. The internet was the most common source of diet information (68.9%). Finally, respondents had a neutral opinion about the time (36.9%) and money (54.5%) required to visit RDs. Conclusion: Although the sample size is small, the study provides a better understanding of food avoidance in university students following a restrictive diet. Future research should explore how RDs could utilize online resources to support individuals with restrictive diets.
- Nutritional sciences