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The influence of social networks in increasing fruit and vegetables consumption in university students: a randomised controlled study

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 January 2018

A.A. Hafiz
Affiliation:
Nutrition Innovation Centre for Food and Health, Ulster University, Coleraine BT52 1SA, UK.
A.M. Gallagher
Affiliation:
Nutrition Innovation Centre for Food and Health, Ulster University, Coleraine BT52 1SA, UK.
A.J. Hill
Affiliation:
Nutrition Innovation Centre for Food and Health, Ulster University, Coleraine BT52 1SA, UK.
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Abstract

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Abstract
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Copyright © The Authors 2018 

Despite the benefits of fruit and vegetables (F&V) consumption on health, university students face difficulties adapting and/or maintaining a healthy lifestyle when living away from home. Adverse health-related behaviours are prevalent in this population ( Reference Kelly, Mazzeo and Bean 1 Reference Strong, Parks and Anderson 3 ) which potentially impact on longer-term health beyond young adulthood ( Reference Deliens, Clarys and De Bourdeaudhuij 4 ). The present study aimed to 1) increase fruit and vegetable consumption in students living away from home, and 2) to determine whether F&V consumption was further enhanced when social networks (e.g. Facebook) providing nutritional education was also available.

A total of 60 (36 female 24 male) full-time university students living away from home were recruited and randomly allocated to one of 3 study groups, namely: ‘Control’ received no intervention, ‘F&V ’ received two and three fruits and vegetables respectively for 4 weeks from an individualised preferred list, and the ‘F&V + Education ’ received F&V (as for the F&V group) plus nutrition education delivered via Facebook and which focused on benefits of F&V consumption. Consumption of F&V was assessed pre-intervention using a validated questionnaire and post intervention using a 4 day semi-quantitative food diaries. Compliance relating to consumption of F&V provided was assessed using records of waste/uneaten F&V. Analysis of food diaries was undertaken using Nutritics software and SPSS version 24 used for statistical analysis. All data were log-transformed before statistical analysis using Paired sample t-test and ANOVA.

F&V, Fruit and Vegetable; ∆F&V, Post minus Pre intake; NA, not applicable. Values are mean (SD) for F&V portions reported from 1food-diary or 2return bags. aPre versus post intervention intake compared using paired Sample t-test. bChange in F&V intake compared across groups using ANOVA. cChange in F&V intake compared across groups using an independent t-test.

Participants at baseline were mean age 24·4y (SD 3·7) y, BMI 25·4 (SD 4·7) kg/m2 and study groups did not differ by age. Consumption of F&V increased in both intervention groups (P < ·0001) from baseline to end of study with food diary data suggesting that 31 % of participants in both intervention groups consumed 5 portions of F&V each day. However in contrast data from ‘return bags’ suggested 65 % achieved this in both intervention groups. 70 % of participants engaged with Facebook regularly. In conclusion, this study showed that providing F&V weekly increased consumption in university students and providing additional nutrition education (via Facebook) did not further enhance intakes of F&V. Further work is currently underway to assess biomarkers of F&V intake to objectively assess F&V intakes during the study period and to determine whether continuing the nutrition education component can help sustain these changes in F&V intakes.

This work was supported by Ulster University and with financial support from the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia

References

1. Kelly, NR, Mazzeo, SE, Bean, MK (2013) J Nutr Educ Behav 45, 304313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
2. Bray, SR, Kwan, MYW (2006) J Am Coll Health 55, 7782.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
3. Strong, KA, Parks, SL, Anderson, E et al. (2008) J Am Diet Assoc 108, 17081715.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
4. Deliens, T, Clarys, P, De Bourdeaudhuij, I et al. (2014) BMC Public Health 14, 53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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