Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Nutrition and Food Science


Nutrition and Food Sciences

First Advisor

Kathleen Melanson


Statement of the Problem: As overweight and obesity rates continue to rise in the United States (U.S.), the social pressure to fit an impractical ideal body weight and image influences the satisfaction college-aged students have of themselves and can lead to higher body weight dissatisfaction (BWD). An increase in BWD has been associated with poorer dietary habits, such as lower intake of nutrient-dense foods like fruits and vegetables, excessive or lacking physical activity, as well as higher body mass index (BMI) and higher percent body fat (%BF). Since BWD has been determined as a contributor to increased risk of disordered eating, and has been shown to lead to poorer dietary and physical habits, investigating BWD is an important contribution to the existing literature.

Objective: The primary objective was to examine the association between BWD and total 2015 Healthy Eating Index (HEI) score, which is a measure for assessing dietary quality (DQ) and alignment with the 2015-2020 Dietary guidelines for Americans, in college-aged students at a university in the eastern U.S. from Fall 2015 to Fall 2019. The secondary objective was to determine the association between BWD and %BF utilizing the InBody 770 or BodPod. The tertiary objective was to evaluate the association between BWD and minutes of weekly moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Exploratory objectives were to consider associations between BWD and dietary HEI components.

Methods: This cross-sectional, secondary data analysis was part of the Nutrition Assessment Study, an ongoing study that was created to examine the relationship between diet and disease risk in college students in an Applied General Nutrition course at The University of Rhode Island. Undergraduate students (n=434, 78.6% females, 83.8% Caucasian, age=18.9 years) were stratified by sex for complete analyses. Students completed the Nutrition Assessment Survey for demographics and desired body weight. Absolute value of BWD was calculated by the difference between measured body weight and reported desired weight. Dietary data were collected through The Diet History Questionnaire II (DHQ II). The DHQ II was used to gather dietary intake and calculate component and total scores through the 2015 Healthy Eating Index (2015 HEI). Anthropometric measurements were taken via the InBody or Bod Pod to assess %BF. The International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) short form was used to assess weekly physical activity. For all hypotheses, median split was used to group the independent variable, BWD, into higher and lower BWD groups. Outcomes were examined via independent t-tests and one-way ANOVAs; analyses stratified by sex. Acceptance of significance was identified as p<0.05.

Results: Males (n=93) and females (n=341) were predominantly Caucasian (76.3%, 85.3%) with a normal average BMI (24.4 kg/m2, 23.0 kg/m2). No significant differences between lower and higher BWD were observed for mean BMI and %BF in males. However, significant differences were found for mean BMI in females (p<.001) with lower BWD (21.5±2.9 kg/m2) and higher BWD (24.4±2.6 kg/m2), and for %BF (F=75.4, ηp2 = .185, p=.001). Significant differences were observed for males in some 2015 HEI components: total vegetables (t(85)=2.827, p=.006), greens and beans (t(85)=2.753, p=.007), and seafood and plant proteins (t(85)=2.209, p=.030). However, no significant differences were observed for total HEI score (males and females), and 2015 HEI components (females). No significant between group differences were observed for minutes of weekly moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for males or females.



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