This study aimed to determine the health, nutritional knowledge and dietary behavior of university students in China. As a result, we recorded the distribution of BMI among Chinese students and found a low prevalence of obesity, a finding that is consistent with a study of Japanese female students (BMI≥25 overweight was 5.8%, BMI>30 of obesity was 0%) [4
]. In the United States, 35% of the college students are reported to be overweight or obese (BMI≥25) [7
]. According to the WHO definition of obesity, BMI>30 is the cut-off point [6
]. The definition is based on research of Caucasian populations. Asian populations are reported to have a higher body fat (%) at a lower BMI compared to Caucasians [8
]. The WHO expert consultation reported that BMI in Asian populations is related to disease at a lower level [9
]. In order to compare obesity prevalence between ethnic groups, BMI cut-off points for Asians need to be considered by well constructed and standardized body composition studies. It is notable that in China, the prevalence of overweight individuals increased from 1991 to 1997, with the increasing rate changing from 6.4 to 7.7 [10
]. The proportion of energy derived from the fat of both vegetable and animal sources increased each year. A recent study revealed that energy derived from dietary fat accounted for more than 30% of the total energy [11
]. Changes in dietary composition, which correspond to socioeconomic growth, may accelerate the prevalence of obesity in China.
The results of our study show that the majority of students regularly eat three times per day, and almost 80% of students eat vegetables and fruit twice per day. These eating habits ought to be encouraged. The traditional Chinese diet contains plenty of vegetables and is rice-based. The present study reported a high proportion of Chinese students eat breakfast daily. In contrast, a dietary survey of young Japanese subjects revealed a low rate of individuals engaged in regular eating patterns [12
]. The skipping of breakfast has been associated with lower nutritional status and the risk of cardiovascular diseases [13
]. It has also been reported that less adequate breakfast habits may contribute to the appearance and further development of obesity [14
]. Therefore the importance of regular eating patterns cannot be overemphasized in nutritional education.
Our results showed that body figure perception was significantly different between female and male students. A number of researchers have investigated the relationship of body image and gender role. Women tend to desire a thinner figure, express more anxiety about becoming fat, and are more likely to diet than men [15
]. In contrast, men have reported a desire for a heavier physique and muscularity [17
]. In recent years, eating disorders have been increasing dramatically among young women. The results of our study did not confirm this suggestion to the level of statistical significance; however, it is worth pointing out that 65.0% of female students with BMI<20, which is under to normal weight range, indicated a desire to be thin. Dissatisfaction with body figure and eating disorders are closely related [18
]. Being young, female, and dieting are identified risk factors that have been reliably linked to the development of eating disorders [21
]. It was speculated that some of the students who were preoccupied with a thin body may develop eating disturbances. Thus, the promotion of healthy weight management practices should be considered when developing health education programs.