Background: Unhealthy diets have been linked to undesired weight gain and poor cognitive development in adulthood. However, the link between eating pattern, weight status and academic performance have received much less attention in the young adult population.
Objective: This study seeks to understand the influence of eating patterns on weight status and academic performance.
Method: A structured self-administered questionnaire was completed by a representative sample of 399 undergraduates. The questionnaire explored socio-demographic characteristics, dietary diversity, food frequency pattern and meal pattern of respondents. The resulting data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics.
Result: The mean age (SD) of the respondents was 21.8 (±2.52) years and were mostly (35.3%) in their 3rd year of study. Most (58.6%) of the students had good dietary diversity and were mostly females (53.0%). The prevalence of unhealthy food frequency pattern (FFP) was high (80.7%) among respondents, especially among males (53.1%). There were no statistically significant relationships between FFP, weight status and academic performance (p>0.05). The majority (62.7%) had an unhealthy meal pattern, and this was higher in males (55.6%). There were no statistically significant relationships between the meal pattern, weight status and academic performance (p>0.05). However, a higher proportion of respondents with healthy eating patterns had good academic performances.
Conclusion: Unhealthy eating patterns were common among undergraduates, especially among males. There was no statistically significant relationship between eating patterns, weight status and academic performance. It is recommended that policies that will promote healthy eating patterns among students be implemented in the university environment.
Eating patterns, Weight status, Academic performance