Body mass index and associated lifestyle and eating behaviours of female students at a South African university

  • Philippe Jean-Luc Gradidge University of the Witwatersrand
  • Emmanuel Cohen University of the Witwatersrand
Keywords: eating behaviour, female, obesity risk, South Africa, university students


Objective: To determine the prevalence of obesity and the physical activity, sitting time, and eating behaviours associated with BMI in a group of undergraduate female students at a South African university. Methods: A cross-sectional study of 110 female undergraduate students, registered at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Validated self-reported questionnaires were used for physical activity and eating behaviours; and body mass index (BMI) was collected using standardised methods. Results: The presence of obesity in the sample was 17.3%, with a mean BMI of 25.4 ± 4.63 kg/m2. Those with BMIs ≥ 25 kg/m2 were less likely to be physically active and purchase fruits than those with normal BMIs. Close proximity to food vendors (≤500m) (β: 0.25), peer influence (β: 0.26), sitting time (β: 0.20) and purchasing fried foods ≥ 4 times/week (β: 0.87) were positively associated with BMI (all p < 0.05). Conclusion: Given the period of susceptibility and potential for shaping healthy behaviour, public health initiatives addressing obesity should target the high sitting times of students and eating behaviour, particularly during the period of transition from adolescence to adulthood. (Full text available online at South Afr J Clin Nutr 2018; DOI: 10.1080/16070658.2017.1406176

Author Biographies

Philippe Jean-Luc Gradidge, University of the Witwatersrand
Centre for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Emmanuel Cohen, University of the Witwatersrand
MRC/Wits Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit, Department of Paediatrics, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Original Research