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Talking to parents may get college students to eat healthier

Category: General Health

It's not just middle-aged and older adults who should use cholesterol testing tools to determine if they have healthy levels, but people of all ages. That's because high cholesterol can strike at any age, particularly for individuals who have a family history of poor cholesterol levels or those who follow an unhealthy diet, like many college students. Recently, researchers from Penn State University set out to determine how college students could be convinced to improve their notoriously fat-filled diets.

The scientists discovered that on days when students talk to their parents, they tend to consume more fruits and vegetables than on days when they do not. This suggests that encouraging greater communication between parents and students may be the key to getting young people to eat better.

Parents know best
Researchers surveyed more than 740 college students about how long they spent communicating with their parents on any given day, along with how many fruits or vegetables they consumed and how much physical activity they engaged in. They discovered that on the days when students either spoke to their parents over the phone or through emailing or text messag​ing for at least 30 minutes they were 14 percent more likely to eat fruits and veggies and had a 50 percent greater chance of exercising for 30 minutes or more, compared to days when they did not talk to their parents.

The scientists did not record conversations that students had with their parents, but they had theories for why this positive effect may be occurring.

"It is likely that communication with parents has both direct and indirect effects on college students' eating and physical activity behaviors," said researcher Meg Small. "Parents may directly remind students to eat a variety of healthy foods and engage in physical activity. Indirectly, communication with parents may remind students someone cares about their health and well-being, and that may motivate them to take better care of themselves."

Eat healthy in college
The Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund has some tips for how all students can eat better in college. For example, students should remember that while they're up late cramming for a test, they don't have to have a sugary energy drink. Instead, they should snack on fruits and veggies, which will give them the fuel they need to stay awake, without causing them to pack on the pounds. Also, students should avoid eating in restaurants or bars often, which may help them stay fit and save money.

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