An assessment of nutritional knowledge, dietary practices and nutritional status of female students attending tertiary institutions in Lusaka, Zambia

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Muzeya, Mahamba Verity
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The University of Zambia
University students tend to adopt unhealthy dietary practices when they move from a family home to attend school. Lack of quality foods can undermine health and wellness, leading to malnutrition and in the long run non-communicable diseases. Furthermore, malnutrition in women of reproductive age can increase risks of poor maternal health outcomes. Studies have shown that nutritional knowledge if implemented can lead to improved dietary practices and healthier lifestyles. It is observed that women are particularly affected by the nutrition transition, exemplified by a shift from traditional to globalized diets in urban populations. This study aimed at assessing the association between nutritional knowledge, dietary practices and nutritional status among female students aged 20- 35 years in three tertiary institutions of Lusaka. A total of 290 students participated, and a validated self – administered questionnaire consisting of students’ socio-demographic, nutrition knowledge and dietary practices was used. A food frequency questionnaire established individual students’ food intake. Weight, height and waist circumference were measured. Data were analyzed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS Version 23) and MS Excel. Results indicated that the mean age for students was 22± 0.39 years. The median body mass index was 23.8 kg/m2 and interquartile range of 6.55 kg/m2. Students with normal body mass index were 53.8%, overweight and obesity were at 23.2 % and 15.5 % respectively, 7.42 % of students were underweight. The median waist circumference was 77cm with the interquartile of 14 cm, 83.8% had normal waist circumference and 16.2% had abdominal obesity. The mean nutritional knowledge score was 66.3% ±17. Students indicated that they obtained nutritional information from the internet followed by television. General dietary practices indicated that 62.1 % of the students exhibited poor dietary practices. Meal patterns before tertiary school and current meal patterns indicated that students had reduced eating breakfast, lunch and supper (p < 0.05), snacking on daily popcorn, potato chips and fruits was observead. There was no statistically significant ssociation between students’ nutritional knowledge scores and , asbody mass index well as with waist circumference. Further findings showed that there was no significant association between dietary practices and nutritional status of female students (p > 0.05). In conclusion, despite most students having a normal nutritional status, the prevalence of overweight and obesity was still notable. Also, despite students possessing adequate nutritional knowledge, they still exhibited poor dietary practices.
Thesis of Master of Science in Human Nutrition