Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

College students struggle to stay nourished nationwide

College students nationwide are struggling to consume enough nutrients in their diets, and this problem is leading to a rise in cases of malnutrition.

A condition often compared to weight loss, malnutrition is when a body does not receive enough nutrients to function properly. While malnutrition can cause weight loss, it can also lead to weight gain if a person is not eating properly.

Sheena Quizon Gregg, assistant director of nutrition education and health promotion at the University, said college populations could be very susceptible to malnutrition due to their frequently unbalanced diets.

“I think, a lot of times, when students come to college, they move from a situation in high school where meals were prepared for them, and they were on a specific schedule,” Gregg said. “Now, coming to college, they have to manage things on their own, and so sometimes, eating a balanced diet can take the back burner.”

In a study at Auburn University, researchers followed 131 students through their four years of college. At the end, 70 percent had gained significant amounts of weight.

“When we live on a campus with all-you-can-eat dining, especially a few that may not have the nutrients we need, students may tend to indulge in those types of foods,” Gregg said. “They may not be thinking of having a balanced diet as a priority.”

There are many symptoms of malnutrition, including changes in weight and feeling fatigued. Sometimes, a person may have no symptoms at all until the malnutrition worsens.

In order to prevent malnutrition, Gregg suggests students take an evaluation of their overall eating habits by keeping a food diary for a few days.

“I’m a big proponent of snacking in between meals,” Gregg said. “I tell people to use snacking as an opportunity to get some of the food groups that they missed at their regular meal.”

Erin Patenaude, a graduate student in nutrition, said although she does not suffer from malnutrition, she does not always eat properly.

“Especially during my undergraduate career, before I was a nutrition student, I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing every day,” Patenaude said, “Plus, after I started college, I wasn’t eating those three square meals a day that my mother was cooking for me.”

Judson Williams, a senior majoring in nutrition, said his coworker was the one who encouraged him to eat healthier and work out.

“I was a freshman college student, and I was broke, so I just started to change my diet a little bit, and I saw progress. I changed it a little more, and I saw more progress,” Williams said.

One participant in the Auburn University study lost over 80 pounds by watching her caloric intake – not dieting – and beginning to exercise.

Gregg also commented on a study done by TEDXManhattan. The viral video, titled “Changing the Way We Eat,” watched the digestion of Ramen noodles, a popular go-to food for college students, and the health implications of this easy meal.

Gregg said foods like Ramen noodles often contain high amounts of salt, fats and calories that most students do not think about.

If eaten in excess, these foods can lead to obesity, heart problems and long-term diseases like Type II diabetes. Avoiding malnutrition is doable for college students and can be achieved if students choose to eat certain foods over others and make their health a priority.


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