Primary prevention of atherosclerosis and obesity in young adults using dietary and educational interventions
The purpose of the studies presented in this dissertation was to examine specific dietary and educational strategies to prevent atherosclerosis and obesity in young adults. The first study determined the effect of a single daily dose of soybean phytosterols added to ground beef on plasma total cholesterol total and LDL cholesterol concentrations in mildly hypercholesterolemic young men. In a 4-week study, 34 male college students were randomly assigned to the control (ground beef alone) or treatment (ground beef with 2.7 g of phytosterols) groups. Consumption of phytosterol-fortified ground beef lowered plasma total and LDL cholesterol by 9% and 15%, respectively, compared with the control group (p < 0.001). The second study tested a hypothesis that a nutrition science course helps prevent weight gain during the first 16 months of college life. Forty female college freshmen were randomly assigned to the intervention (college course, n = 21) or control (no course, n = 19) groups. At the end of the course higher BMI (>24) students in the intervention group (n = 11) consumed less fat (p = 0.04), protein (p = 0.03), and carbohydrate (p = 0.008) than did the higher BMI students in the control group (n = 6). Dietary changes reported by the higher BMI intervention students were associated with the maintenance of baseline body weight for one year in contrast with the higher BMI control students who gained 8.4 +/- 6.8 kg (p = 0.012). The third study examined college students' concerns, attitudes, beliefs, and knowledge regarding body weight. A written questionnaire was administered to 220 undergraduate students. The results showed that 75% of students had a BMI <25, yet 77% wanted to lose weight and 74% reported a history of weight loss attempts. Male and female students differed significantly in their perceived ability to control body weight and their reasons for weight concern. Students generally were aware of biologic and lifestyle factors influencing body weight and fatness but had limited understanding of the mechanisms by which these factors exert their effects.