Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Nutrition and Food Science




Nutrition and Food Sciences

First Advisor

Ingrid Lofgren


Purpose: Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) cause over 2200 American deaths daily and include coronary heart disease (CHD), the fifth leading cause of death in young adults. Those with diabetes mellitus are especially vulnerable to CHD, as heart disease death rates are two to four times higher in this population. Blood lipids and glucose can be used to estimate CVD risk, and include elevated plasma total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), triacylglycerol (TAG), low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), physical inactivity, overweight and obesity, diabetes mellitus and impaired fasting plasma glucose. Prevalence of these risk factors is evident in college students across the country. Lifestyle interventions to reduce the development of type 2 diabetes and CVD are feasible and costeffective, and include improving nutrition and increasing physical activity.

Design: Using a quasi-experimental design, the Health It Up Intervention included five 20-minute lessons embedded into a general nutrition course. Data were collected at the beginning and end of the semester to examine the effect of the intervention on diet, body composition and markers of chronic disease risk.

Setting: The intervention was conducted at a mid-sized northeastern university during the spring semester in 2010.

Subjects: Eighty-three students between the ages of 18 and 24 years, taking a general nutrition course, participated in the intervention. One student dropped the course during the intervention and did not finish the study.

Intervention: The intervention was interactive and included food sampling, group activities, and presentations utilizing PowerPoint. The focus of the intervention was to teach students how to improve their diet and increase their physical activity to reduce chronic disease risk.

Measures: Biochemical data were collected using a Cholestech LDX analyzer and dietary data were collected using food screeners. Body composition was analyzed using a handheld bioelectrical impedance device and weight was measured on a digital scale.

Results: Mean age was 19.3±1.4 years, mean BMI was 23.5±3.6 kg/m2, and the sample consisted of 18% males and 82% females. A mixed between-within subjects ANOVA assessed the impact of the intervention on body weight and composition, plasma lipids and glucose. The main effect for time was significant for TC, HDL-C and glucose, with a decrease in all three concentrations from baseline to post-intervention. Wilcoxin signed ranks tests were used to measure change in dietary variables, and total intake of fruits and vegetables increased from baseline to post-intervention.

Conclusion: Diet and physical activity education embedded in a college class may be a way to decrease chronic disease risk factors in young adults.

A strength of the study is that it could be easily replicated and utilized by other universities as the cost of the intervention itself was low. A limitation of the study is the inability to distinguish between the effect of the general nutrition course and the intervention. Future research should incorporate a similar intervention into a non-nutrition course to determine the effect of the intervention alone.



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