In a recent study published in the journal Nutrients, researchers from Spain surveyed the University of Almeria community to determine adherence to the Mediterranean Diet, a healthy diet pattern, and lifestyle choice that potentially reduces the risk of various diseases.
Study: Healthy Eating in the Spanish University Community: A Case Study. Image Credit: MarianWeyo/Shutterstock.com
Various factors such as culture, economics, climate, psychological state, society, and geography influence diet choices. The nutritional value of the food is seldom the primary motivation for choosing a diet pattern or food item.
Furthermore, while healthy food choices can reduce the risk of various diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and stroke, specific nutritional practices are also essential for health benefits.
The dietary standards established by the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that the caloric expenditure must balance the caloric intake, the daily salt intake must be less than 5 g, and the fat component of the diet must constitute less than 30% of the total caloric intake for the day.
The Mediterranean diet, which consists of fruits, nuts, whole grains, vegetables, pulses, poultry, fish, lean meat, and olive oil, is recognized as a healthy dietary pattern and recommended by many health professionals.
However, despite substantial evidence supporting the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet in reducing the risk of various diseases, adherence to this diet has reduced in Mediterranean countries.
About the study
In the present study, the researchers conducted a survey-based study among the community residing within the University of Almeria campus between September 2021 and November 2022.
The University of Almeria campus has access to various healthy food options, courtesy of the fact that the city is the largest producer of vegetables and fruits in Europe and has a coastline of over 200 km, giving easy access to fresh seafood.
The participants comprised individuals who studied, taught, or worked at the university, with 64.7% of the study population being female and 92.5% being Spaniards.
A large majority of the study population consisted of students, followed by professors and individuals who worked in the administrative departments. The participants also spanned various fields of education, including engineering, health sciences, humanities, law, psychology, and many more.
The survey was conducted using a questionnaire that obtained the participant’s informed consent and sociodemographic information and covered areas of food consumption behavior, knowledge of food and sustainability, and lifestyle.
A Mediterranean diet score tool (T-MDS) index was used to determine the level of adherence, with a value of 1 indicating greater than average consumption of protective Mediterranean diet foods and a score of 0 suggesting that the adherence to the Mediterranean diet was below average.
The T-MDS evaluates the saturated to monounsaturated fatty acids ratio and the consumption of legumes, vegetables, fruits, cereals, nuts, fish, milk and other dairy products, alcohol, and meat and meat derivatives.
Therefore, the researchers gathered detailed information on the types of foods the participants consumed within four categories — whole, semi, or skimmed milk among dairy products, white or whole cereals, blue or white fish, and white or red meat.
The results indicated that no age group among the participants strongly adhered to the Mediterranean diet. Among those older than 60 years, and individuals between the ages of 18 and 20, adherence to the Mediterranean diet was low, while individuals between the ages of 51 and 60 showed medium levels of adherence to the Mediterranean diet.
Furthermore, compared to the faculty and research staff and individuals in the administration and services departments, the adherence to the Mediterranean diet was the lowest among the students of the University of Almeria.
Comparisons with the results from similar studies revealed that among students, the consumption of sweets, fats, snacks, and proteins was higher, and the intake of fruits, nuts, vegetables, olive oil, and legumes was lower than recommended by the Mediterranean diet.
The authors believe that a lack of time to cook healthy meals, monetary constraints, and the novelty of independent living might be causing the low adherence to the Mediterranean diet.
The linear regression analysis identified that the type of individual who would adhere the most to the Mediterranean diet pattern was typically a young female of Spanish origin who understands the importance of sustainability, makes informed food choices, exercises often, recycles waste and cooks healthy meals.
Similarly, living with a family and children improved adherence to the Mediterranean diet.
Overall, the results indicated that a significant portion of the University of Almeria campus community residents did not adhere to the Mediterranean diet patterns.
Younger Spanish women who exercised regularly, recycled waste, and valued sustainability were the typical Mediterranean diet adherents. Furthermore, the shortage of money and time could potentially explain the unhealthy food choices among students.
- Arjona Garrido, Á., Monserrat Hernández, M. and Checa Olmos, J. (2023) "Healthy Eating in the Spanish University Community: A Case Study", Nutrients, 15(9), p. 2053. doi: 10.3390/nu15092053. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/15/9/2053
Posted in: Medical Science News | Medical Research News | Healthcare News
Tags: Alcohol, Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Children, Diabetes, Diet, Education, Fatty Acids, Fish, Food, Meat, Nutrients, Olive Oil, Psychology, Research, Stroke, students, Vegetables
Dr. Chinta Sidharthan
Chinta Sidharthan is a writer based in Bangalore, India. Her academic background is in evolutionary biology and genetics, and she has extensive experience in scientific research, teaching, science writing, and herpetology. Chinta holds a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the Indian Institute of Science and is passionate about science education, writing, animals, wildlife, and conservation. For her doctoral research, she explored the origins and diversification of blindsnakes in India, as a part of which she did extensive fieldwork in the jungles of southern India. She has received the Canadian Governor General’s bronze medal and Bangalore University gold medal for academic excellence and published her research in high-impact journals.
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