Impact of the American Diet on Newly-Arrived International Students during their first three months at Virginia Tech

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Virginia Tech

Rationale: Published studies have shown that immigrants undergo dietary acculturation which may have positive or negative impact on their health. Therefore, a study was conducted to investigate this critical issue of dietary acculturation and any possible influence on the health status of newly arrived international students at Virginia Tech in Fall 2010.

Design: In this study weight, fasting blood glucose and blood pressure of 35 international students (age 18-36 years) were determined at three time points, 5-6 weeks apart. Participants filled out a 20-item-questionnaire addressing alteration in the native and American dietary habits. Furthermore, 24 hrs dietary recalls and frequency of consuming the most popular food items in the US was assessed.

Results: Total sample population (TSP) had a significant increase in average weight by 2.79 lbs from visit 1 (V1) to visit 3 (V3) (p=0.0082), Participants who gained weight (PGW; n=10) had an average increase by 9 lbs. Country wise, Chinese had a statistically significant average increase in their weights by 4.16 lbs (p=0.0077) whereas, Indians and Germans had an average increase by 2.36 lbs and 1.28 lbs respectively. Gender wise, the average increase in weight for females was 3.99 lbs (p=0.0015) while for males 1.52 lbs from V1 to V3. There were no significant differences in total caloric consumption from V1 to V3 for both groups of international students. There were no significant changes in the fasting blood glucose and systolic blood pressure from V1 to V3. There was an increase in frequency of consuming high calorie American food items in V3 when compared with V1. Frequency of burger consumption was highly increased in the TSP group while bagels were significantly increased in PGW group. There was an overall increasing trend towards American diet, cooking and eating habits.

Finally, we conclude that the international students are gradually acculturating to the American diet and have impact on their weight which may potentially have a negative impact on their health status. Future studies and orientation program catered to the needs of adjusting to acculturation process of international students are recommended.

weight gain, international students, food frequency, Acculturation