Background

Weight gain during college is a public health concern and as college students are increasingly more racially and ethnically diverse, we need to understand if health-related behaviors differ by race/ ethnicity. The purpose of this study was to examine health behaviors associated with weight by race/ethnicity in a diverse urban commuter college.

Methods

Analyses include 276 undergraduate students (77.0% female), with a median age of 21.2 years [25th, 75th percentiles: 19.8, 22.8], and median body mass index (BMI) of 23.1 kg/m2 [20.6, 27.1], who answered a baseline survey questionnaire about health-related behaviors as part of the “Get Fruved” project. Race/ ethnicity was collapsed into four groups including: non-Hispanic white (n=75; 27.2%); non-Hispanic black (n=36; 12.7%); Hispanic/ Latino (n=61; 22.1%); and other (including biracial) (n=105; 38.0%). Health-relatedbehavior outcomes associated with weight status included: sugar sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption, fruit consumption, vegetable consumption, physical activity, stress, and sleep. An analysis of covariance, adjusted for BMI, age, and gender, was utilized to assess differences in health-related behaviors by race/ethnicity.

Results

There were no significant differences between race/ ethnicity and: stress, daily servings of fruit, sleep, physical activity, or daily SSB consumption (p’s > 0.05). There was a significant difference in daily vegetable consumption by race/ ethnicity (p=0.02). Post-hoc analyses revealed that non-Hispanic white students consumed significantly more servings of vegetables per day (adjusted mean [95% CI]; 0.9 [0.5, 1.0]) than non-Hispanic black (0.4 [0.1,0.6]; p=0.02) and Hispanic students (0.4 [0.1, 0.6]; p<0.01).

Conclusions

With the exception of servings of vegetables per day, health-related behaviors associated with weight do not appear to vary by race/ethnicity independent of BMI, age, and gender in a diverse urban commuter college.