Dietary intake of university students during COVID-19 social distancing in the Northeast of Brazil and associated factors

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Appetite. 2021 Feb 19:105172. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2021.105172. Online ahead of print.


This study aimed to analyze the influence of COVID-19 social distancing on the dietary pattern of university students in the Northeast of Brazil and associated factors. This is a cross-sectional study of 955 students from four universities carried out via a web survey containing social, economic, demographic, and health information. A food frequency questionnaire was used to evaluate diet. Weight and dietary alterations were reported. Exploratory factor analysis and multivariate logistic regression were used as statistical analyses. The mean age was 26 and 53.7% of the students observed an increase in their weight. Four dietary patterns were identified: (1) a predominantly in natura pattern, (2) a pattern of processed and ultra-processed foods, (3) a protein-based pattern, and (4) an infusion-based pattern. It was observed that students having a darker skin colour (OR 1.8; CI 95% 1.3-2.6) and 19 to 29 years old and not being a health course student (OR 1.5; CI 95% 1.1-2.1) were associated with greater adhesion to the in natura pattern. Not engaging in physical activity was statistically associated with not adhering (OR 0.5; CI 95% 0.4-0.7) to that pattern. The university students who saw an alteration in their weight during the social distancing period studied presented a greater probability of consuming the processed and ultra-processed foods pattern (OR 1.8; CI 95% 1.2-2.6), while the men (OR 0.7; CI 95% 0.4-0.9) and those not engaging in physical activity (OR 0.7; CI 95% 0.5-0.9) presented less adhesion to that pattern. These findings indicate that social isolation affected the dietary intake of university students, with adhesion to mixed dietary patterns in terms of health. The adhesion to the pattern of processed and ultra-processed foods identified may affect the students’ health, especially the occurrence of excess weight and obesity.

PMID:33617933 | DOI:10.1016/j.appet.2021.105172