Energy Balance Health Programme for University Students in Hungary
  • The Hungarian Dietetic Association got an overview of the nutritional status and eating habits of 1500 young people within the E3 energy balance programme in six months.
    Free-of-charge professional programme of the Hungarian Dietetic Association called Energy Balance Health Programme for University Students was launched in March 2013 at three universities, aiming to promote healthy eating and living among the students. The programme consists of lectures by expert dietitians, free personal consultation, and a quick nutrition assessment. Nearly 1500 students have utilised the consultation since March. Fortunately, the majority of them wanted to know more about healthy eating and not about weight-loss diets and fad diets.
    The key to maintaining bodyweight is energy balance. It is important to integrate this knowledge into the students’ minds since lifestyle and eating habits are mainly formed during childhood and early adulthood. This is why the Hungarian Dietetic Association decided to visit three Hungarian universities – Faculty of Food Science of the Corvinus University of Budapest, Medical and Health Science Centre of Debrecen University, and Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Pécs with a comprehensive professional programme. However, lectures and consultations were open to the students of other faculties too. By the end of the three-year project, data on eating habits and nutritional status of approximately 4500 students will be available, and this data will presumably provide a view of health condition and eating habits of their age group as well.
    Since the program’s launch in March, 1406 university students have visited an expert dietitian and used free-of-charge professional consultation within the frame of the E3 - Energy Balance Health Programme for University Students project. Their primary motivation was to receive as much useful information on healthy eating as possible and 64% of them visited the consultants for this reason. From the quick assessment conducted during the consultation it was found that most of them did not need to go on a diet because their average body mass index was 22.8, which is within the normal range. This suggests that the university students can prevent long term obesity or overweight problem by paying attention to the energy balance.
    Mapping of the eating habits of the university students also revealed that the consumption of fruits and vegetables is low. Although the consumption of these is vital, 2% of them do not eat any fruits or vegetables at all, and 30% of the students eat these foods only once a day.
    When compared to the average inactive adult population (77% is inactive, which means, they engage in physical activities less than 3 times a month), students who participated in the E3 programme are more active and take part in sports. 43% of them participate in sports regularly compared to only 23% of the adult population. However, nearly 10% of the students do not do any physical exercise.
    Half of the students (47.3%) drink 1-2 litres of fluids per day, and 28% of them drink between 2-3 litres of fluids. The recommended amount would be at least 2 litres per day.  The results indicate that more awareness is required regarding fluid intake.
    As regards to smoking, the situation is relatively good: 70% of the students do not smoke, 20% smoke occasionally, while 10% are regular smokers.
    The E3 programme is projected to last five semesters, and continues in the 2014 school-year too. Over the three-year period, the Hungarian Dietetic Association will offer 40-50 lectures and more than 600 consultations for students.
    Zsuzsanna Szucs, Executive Committee Member, Hungarian Dietetic Association
    JolanKubanyi, President, Hungarian Dietetic Association