Date of Award

5-2009

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Food Science and Human Nutrition

Advisor

Adrienne A White

Second Committee Member

Dorothy J Klimis-Zacas

Third Committee Member

Susan Sullivan

Abstract

With the prevalence of obesity in the United States rising, it becomes critical to intervene and promote lifestyle changes necessary to maintain healthy weight. The objective of this research was to assess the impact of an online intervention promoting a non-diet approach to weight management among college students (n=160; 18-24 years). The ultimate goal was to promote weight management by increasing fruit and vegetable intakes and physical activity. The intervention was an interactive educational website designed to be viewed for 15 minutes once a week for 10 weeks. Pre and post assessments included measured height and weight; self-reported fruit and vegetable intakes, using the National Cancer Institute's Fruit and Vegetable Screener, 2-item assessment of usual daily intake, and 2-item assessment of the amount that should be eaten daily; and self-reported physical activity, using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire to assess total, moderate/vigorous, and walking activity. Body mass index (BMI) was calculated. Statistical analyses included descriptive, mixed between-within ANOVA, independent and paired t-tests and multiple regression. Dr. Susan Schembre provided statistical consulting. Significance was set at a P<0.05 level. While no statistically significant effect of the intervention on change in the subjects was determined using an ANOVA, there were changes in the outcome measures using paired t-tests. Intervention males increased usual intake of fruits (P=0.016) and vegetables (P=0.001) and what they stated they should eat of fruits (P=0.002) and vegetables (p=0.006) compared to control males. Intervention males also increased reported fruit intake (P=0.039), usual fruit (P=0.009) and vegetable (P=0.001) intakes, and what they stated they should eat of fruits (P=0.002) and vegetables (P=0.008) from pre- to post test. Intervention males increased combined fruit and vegetable intake (p=0.035) from pre- to post. Intervention females increased usual vegetable intake (P=0.022) compared to control females and usual vegetable intake (P=0.007) from pre to post. Control males decreased total physical activity (P=0.020) and moderate/vigorous activity (P=0.001). Control females decreased total physical activity (P=0.011) and moderate/vigorous activity (P=0.012). Intervention males maintained all levels of assessed physical activity. Intervention females only decreased walking (P=0.043) from pre to post. Control males (P=0.001) and females (P=0.032) increased BMI, while intervention males and females had no significant changes. The current study was behaviorally-focused with a reasonably in-depth intervention designed specifically to reach the target population of 18-24 year old college students. With some modification, the online 10-lesson intervention could be made available to a broader audience of college students, as supplemental to introductory nutrition textbooks or for a personalized nutrition course for undergraduate students. The lack of significant effect of the intervention is evidence of the importance of an environmental component for future research studies, including supportive changes within eating establishments and policies related to health and wellness. Intervening for obesity prevention during young adulthood is important to impact individual lifestyles for better health and to decrease health care costs for future generations.

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