University Student Sample Is Unable to Accurately Assess Their Calorie Needs: Implications for Weight Management and Menu Labeling


National surveys have shown that over 80% of adults do not know their recommended calorie levels. Lack of knowledge about calorie needs could be contributing to the high prevalence of obesity in the US. Young adulthood is a crucial period for the development of dietary behaviors that continue into later adulthood and influence the risk of obesity and chronic disease. This study examined university students’ knowledge of their recommended calorie needs. Subjects (N = 153) were students at Texas Tech University in Fall 2010. Students were given a survey to assess perceived daily calorie need (PDCN) and perceived daily calorie intake (PDCI). Their recommended daily calorie needs (RDCN) and actual calorie intakes (ACI) were determined using PDCN, PDCI, RDCN, and ACI were compared to determine students’ ability to accurately estimate and consume recommended daily calorie levels. The range of their PDCN was 120 kcal to 10,000 kcal. Only 19.7% of students estimated their RDCN accurately. There were significant differences between PDCN and RDCN (t [152] = ?3.223, P = 0.002); PDCI and ACI (t [114] = 3.246, P = 0.002); and ACI and RDCN (t [114] = ?5.6, P = 0.000). Nearly 40% of these university students were overweight. BMI had a significant effect (P = 0.001) on students’ estimation of their RDCN as students with underweight/normal BMI were more accurate. Nutrition education programs focused on calorie needs should be implemented with university students so they will be able to effectively use calorie information on food labels and menus for weight management.

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Y. Chen, D. Reed, N. Velikova and S. Wang, "University Student Sample Is Unable to Accurately Assess Their Calorie Needs: Implications for Weight Management and Menu Labeling," Food and Nutrition Sciences, Vol. 3 No. 4, 2012, pp. 505-510. doi: 10.4236/fns.2012.34071.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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