A Baseline Assessment of Obesity-Related Risk Factors Among Minority College Students
A grant funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Objectives: The present study identified and compared obesity-related risk factors among male and female African-American
college students between the ages of 18 and 25.
Methods: 500 college students voluntarily completed the survey
assessments including volume of physical activity, stages of change for diet and physical activity, dietary food screeners,
healthy lifestyle social support and peer influence, and food preference. In addition the students participated in measures
of height, weight, blood pressure, waist circumference and body composition. Data is currently being analyzed..
Conclusions: Study ongoing.
An observational review of 21 studies in Medline found that physical activity, nutritional intake and social support have
an influence on obesity-related risk. Other studies indicate that obesity, already a significant health issue among majority populations in the United States, is
a health concern that disproportionately affects minority populations, specifically women. Disorders related to obesity, including
diabetes, heart disease also affect these populations with similar proportions. In the United States, approximately 50 million
or one in four adults have high blood pressure (HBP). In 1997, Blacks and Whites in the Southeastern United States experienced
a much higher prevalence of HBP and increased rates of death from stroke than did those in other regions of the country. 1
As an example of the severity of this problem, when HBP exists with high blood cholesterol, diabetes, inactivity, smoking,
and obesity, the risk of CHD increases several-fold. 17 Healthy People 2010 18 recognizes the need to investigate these risk factors, and also recognizes that studies of this nature in young men and women
Healthy People 2010 targets for health disparities between African-Americans and Whites were not reduced. Data are needed
to determine the risk factors for obesity-related disorders, and any variations in that risk which could lead to effective
interventions, among minority college students. The college years are important, since many students develop eating habits
that become long-term lifestyle patterns and beliefs that help explain these habits. Therefore, it is important to learn when
ethnic differences for obesity-related risk factors are first apparent so that preventive interventions can be initiated before
unhealthy lifestyles are established. The main objective of the study is to identify, determine and compare obesity-related
risk factors in a minority college population. The specific objectives of the study were to (1) Identify the prevalence of
obesity-related risk factors and determine if significant relationships exist among obesity-related risk factors and health
behaviors, influences or perceptions.
Subject Recruitment And Selection
Five hundred college students at North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University (NCATSU) were recruited to
participate in the study. Two methods of subject recruitment were used: 1) Flyers with the study outline with inclusion and
exclusion criteria, benefits, and investigator's phone number were distributed and posted by the investigators on the NCATSU
campus in areas where students congregated. 2) Students in large classrooms with diverse majors and backgrounds were also
approached. Subjects who met the inclusion criteria and agreed to participate in the study were asked to report to the investigator's
laboratory on campus to take part in the study. Only one visit was necessary to collect all of the required data; and the
entire process took approximately 120 minutes.
Subjects who were interested in participating in the study signed an informed consent form, approved by the NCATSU Institutional
Review Board (IRB), before all tests were performed. Subjects' recruitment continued until the required number of subjects
was reached. Subjects who volunteered to participate in the study and met the following criteria included College students
at NCATSU during 2005-2006, were between 18 and 25 years of age, males and females, any major, were African-American, and
were United States citizens.
All subjects were required to complete the Cardiovascular Risk Assessment Instruments (CRAIs) when they reported
to the Human Nutrition Laboratory on campus. The CRAIs contained a socio-demographic questionnaire which included information
regarding age, gender, weight, height, race and ethnic background, the student's class level and major, how long the student
has lived in the United States, and if the student took any college nutrition classes prior to the study.
Volunteers completed the following surveys:
Physical Activity- Paffenbarger Physical Activity Questionnaire, International Physical Activity Questionnaire
(Short Format), and Stages of Change for Physical Activity Questionnaire.
Nutrition: National Institute of Health (NIH) Fruit and Vegetable Screener, NIH Dietary Fat Screener, and an extensive
food preference questionnaire.
Social/Psychological: Two social and peer support surveys (Social Support Survey for Physical Activity- Rosenfeld, Richmond
and Hardy, 1986)
Physical Measures were also taken:
Blood pressures- measured and recorded by the investigator, who was trained in taking blood pressure. Three blood pressure
readings were recorded for each subject. The first reading was taken at the beginning of the study when the subject reported
to the laboratory. The second and third readings were obtained at the end of the study before the subject left the laboratory.
The mean of the three readings was calculated and recorded as the blood pressure. Blood pressure was assessed using a sphygmomanometer
and a stethoscope.
Height- body height was measured with the individual standing without shoes, legs straight,
shoulders relaxed, and head in the Frankfort horizontal plane, lying against a wall. Height was recorded to the nearest centimeter.
Weight- Weight was obtained with the subjects wearing light clothing and standing on
the platform barefoot. Weight was assessed with a SECA platform scale (Madison, WI, USA) graduated to the nearest 0.1 kg.
Body mass index (BMI) was calculated from the resulting height and weight measures with the formula. BMI= weight/height2.
Waist Circumference- Waist circumference was measured with the subject standing up.
A flexible steel tape was used to measure the waist circumference at the level of the umbilicus.
Body composition- Body composition was measured using a gender-specific 3-site skinfold measurement via Lange skinfold
calipers. Body density, and subsequently body composition were calculated using an ethnically appropriate formula.