Changes in Body Mass, Body Composition, Physical Activity and Nutrition from the First to the Fourth Academic Year in University Students
Background: The transition to university life is a critical time of change, often accompanied by the adoption of negative lifestyle habits, including an unhealthy diet and a decrease in physical activity. Lifestyle changes during university may result in a positive energy balance and a decrease in diet quality, which can lead to weight gain, a percent body fat in the overweight/obesity range, and increased cardiometabolic disease risk over time. The purpose of the current study was to investigate changes in body mass and composition from 1st to 4th year among university students, and to assess whether changes in physical activity and dietary intake were related to observed changes in body mass and composition. Methods: Thirty-eight participants completed food frequency and activity questionnaires and had their body mass measured and body composition assessed using bioelectrical impedance analysis. These measurements were obtained at the beginning (fall) and end (spring) of 1st year and the end (spring) of 4th year. Results: During the 1st year, body mass and percent fat increased by 3.2 kg and 2.1%, respectively (P<0.01), while daily energy intake was maintained and daily energy expenditure decreased (-435.2 kcal/day, P<0.01). Between the end of the 1st year and the end of the 4th year, students continued to increase their body mass, but this increase was smaller (+2.2 kg, P=0.05) than the change occurring during the 1st year. Additionally, percent fat and energy intake did not change while energy expenditure increased from the end of 1st year to the end of 4th year (+208.6 kcal/day, P<0.01). Conclusions: Increases in percent body fat during university occurred only during the 1st year. However, students were not able to reverse these gains by the end of the 4th year.