On May 25th, 2023, researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) Okanagan discovered that unhealthy eating habits established during post-secondary education may contribute to future health issues such as obesity, respiratory disease, and depression. The study, published in the Preventive Medicine Report, examined the eating habits of medical students from 31 Chinese universities, with the participation of 12,000 individuals.
One of the study’s authors, UBCO’s School of Nursing professor Dr. Joanne Bottorff, warned that these bad eating habits could last for decades and can lead to chronic diseases. College students tend to consume high-calorie meals with sugary foods and drinks, a habit that is known to lead to obesity. However, it is not the only habit that leads to obesity, and it cannot be disregarded. The study did not provide causality, but the correlation between unhealthy eating habits and respiratory disease or obesity was well-supported.
Dr. Bottorff added that recent studies show that obesity is linked to severe COVID-19 symptoms due to breathing problems resulting from weight gain and decreased immune responses. Overeating can lead to depression, stress, and anxiety, which can further increase the likelihood of overeating. Therefore, young people who exhibit this risk pattern should not be ignored.
Dr. Bottorff suggested that universities should not only teach their students about healthy eating but should also provide affordable and nutritious meal options. UBC Student Wellness and Food Services are already working together to address this issue. They emphasize food security, food literacy, and affordable grocery options to ensure students’ healthy food choices and reduce food insecurity. They offer low-barrier food bank and meal-sharing programs and prioritize using local, organic, and sustainably sourced ingredients.
Dr. Bottorff has noticed that cafeterias’ food options have improved over the past few years. Additionally, vending machines have been rearranged to place healthier items at eye level and sugary choices lower down. However, she insists there is much more work to be done.