Consumption of added sugars among undergraduate students at a South African university and its association with BMI
Objectives: A study was undertaken to quantify added sugar intake; to show the association between added sugar intake and
body mass index (BMI); and to identify determinants of added sugar and sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) intake.
Design: This was a cross-sectional study.
Subjects: Non-probability sampling was used to recruit a sample of 387 undergraduate students, aged 18–25 years: 128 males
and 259 females.
Setting: The study was conducted at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg campus.
Outcome measures: BMI was calculated using weight and height. The mean added sugar and dietary energy intake was
measured using a 24-hour dietary recall. The frequency and mean amount of added sugars consumed was analysed using a
food frequency questionnaire.
Results: Females (66.1%), Black Africans (90.4%), and students living away from home (76.7%) formed the majority of the study
sample. The prevalence of overweight and obesity was 19.1% and 8.5%, respectively, with 64.9% of students having a normal
BMI. There was a significant association between the frequency of consuming flavoured milks, hot chocolate drinks, jam and
chocolate bars and BMI. Female students and those living at home consumed added sugars significantly more frequently
than their counterparts. Taste and price were significantly associated with purchasing/consuming SSBs.
Conclusion: A significant association between the frequency of consuming certain food items containing added sugar and the
students’ BMI was observed. Poor dietary habits could impact negatively on an individual’s weight status, thus highlighting the
need for strategies to promote healthier dietary and lifestyle behaviours among young adults.
The SAJCN does not hold itself responsible for statements made by the authors.