The study evaluated the nutritional status and eating habits of undergraduate students in a Nigerian University. One hundred undergraduates (ages 15 to 40 years) of the Lagos State University, Ojo participated in the study. General information, anthropometric data, as well as a 7-day dietary recall were obtained by means of questionnaire. Venous blood samples were collected from the respondents and analyzed for vitamins A and C, creatinine, zinc, iron, total and differential blood counts. Mean body mass index (BMI), mid arm circumference (MAC), vitamins A and C, iron (Fe), zinc (Zn) and creatinine concentrations were 24.56 ± 3.3 kg/m 2 , 26.7 ± 3.0 cm, 20.5 ± 14.3 µg/dl, 1.5 ± 71.27 µg/dl, 19.62 ± 5.65 µmol/L, 6.6 ± 1.9 mg/kg and 1.24 ± 1.53 µg/dl, respectively. Mean PCV, WBC and Hb were 39.2 ± 4.9%, 5.34 ±1.73 × 10 6 /L and 12.22 ± 1.93 g/dl, respectively. 53% of the respondents were over-weight; 6%, obese and 15% under weight. PCV, Hb and lymphocytes were significantly higher in males than in females. There was positive correlation between serum vitamin C and Zn concentrations (r = 0.203), Fe and Zn (r = 0.539), Zn and neutrophil (r = 0.210) and vitamin A and basophil (r = 0.559). There was however a negative correlation between Zn and eosinophil count. Number of meals and milk intake had no effect on the status of the subjects. However, fruit intake positively affected neutrophil count (r = 0.202); vegetable intake positively affected serum Fe concentration (0.256); and intake of nutritional supplements positively affected serum Zn concentration. Also, serum vitamin A concentration in both male and female students was low
Recent trends in the results of major examination in the country have indicated that there is a decline in academic performance of students at all levels (Ighodalo, 2004). This decline has been attributed to some major factors like poor academic background, attitude of students towards examinations and attitudes of teachers to work. Another remote cause of poor academic performance of students could be linked to the worsening socioeconomic condition of the country, which has affected the feeding habit of students (Ighodalo, 2004). Malnutrition is a major problem in both developed and developing countries and deficiencies in some nutrients have been reported to cause diseases which could lead to impaired cognitive development (Simeon and McGregor, 1989). Other studies have related lifestyle of students, particularly breakfast consumption, to their cognitive abilities as reflected in their academic performance (Pollit, 1982, 1987; Lisa, 1998). However, most of these studies have excluded young adults in the tertiary institution.
In developing countries, many children with mild to moderate malnutrition survive to reach adolescence, when malnutrition tends to remain mild but chronic, being detectable only by anthropometric measurements. On the other hand, relatively well-nourished children may develop malnutrition in adolescence as a result of acquired dietary habits, influenced by obsession with thinness (WHO, 1986; Matsuhashi, 2000; Ryan et al, 1998).
Several studies, mainly from developed countries, have demonstrated that, despite the increasing trends in the prevalence of overweight and obesity, fatness phobia is common during adolescence, especially in females (Thompson and Chad, 2003; Jones et al., 2001; Weinshenker, 2002).
Nutritional status is the combination of an individual’s health as influenced by intake and utilization of nutrients and determined from information obtained by physical, biochemical and dietary studies (Durning and Fidanza, 1985). Information on the nutritional status and dietary habits of the adolescent population in Nigeria is however scanty. This study was therefore intended to evaluate the nutritional status and eating habits of adolescents and young adults in a Nigerian University.