Association between frequency of takeaway consumption and indicators of body weight in university students

Terpsichori Karpasiti, Katerina Vafeiadou, Angela Madden

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Takeaway foods are often high in energy and fat1, which can contribute to unplanned positive energy balance, weight gain and obesity. There is increasing international evidence, mainly in adults, that takeaway consumption is associated with weight gain2. However, results from UK studies are inconsistent and currently no studies have explored this in young adult university students3. The aims of this study were to identify any associations between frequency of takeaway consumption and indicators of body weight in university students and examine potential differences with gender and ethnicity.                       

METHODS: University students aged 18–25 years were invited to participate in the study. Consenting participants completed a questionnaire which was designed specifically for the study and focussed on the frequency of consumption of a defined list of takeaway foods. Those who reported consuming a takeaway meal at least once per week were categorised as frequent consumers. Weight, height and waist circumference (WC) were measured according to standard procedures and body mass index (BMI) was calculated. Anthropometric measurements were categorised as high if BMI was ≥25 kg/m2 and WC was >80 cm in women and >94 cm in men4. Age, gender and ethnicity were recorded. The prevalence of high BMI ± WC in frequent takeaway consumers was compared with prevalence in those consuming less often using Pearson's chi-squared and Fisher's exact (if n < 5) tests. Subgroup analysis was undertaken for gender and ethnicity where the number of participants allowed. Ethical approval was obtained from the Ethics Committee for Studies involving Human Participants (ECDA), University of Hertfordshire.                     

RESULTS: Forty-four participants completed the study (22 men, 22 women; 27 White, 17 other) and 16 of these (36%) were frequent takeaway consumers. In the whole group, BMI ranged between 17.3–37.7 (mean 24.2) kg/m2. Sixteen (36%) participants were categorised as having a high BMI and six (14%) with high WC. The prevalence of high BMI in frequent consumers was significantly higher than in less frequent consumers (88% vs 7%, P=<0.001). In women, but not men, the prevalence of high WC was significantly higher in frequent consumers than those consuming less frequently (80% vs 6%, P = 0.003). High WC was also more prevalent in White frequent consumers than in those consuming less often (36% vs 0, P = 0.019). No significant associations were identified in students from other ethnicities.                           

DISCUSSION: These findings support other studies identifying associations between takeaway consumption and obesity2. Large portions and high energy content are likely to contribute to positive energy balance and weight gain but high saturated fat and salt content may also contribute to cardiovascular and other health risks. Prevalence of abdominal fat adiposity in the UK is generally greater in females than males5 and, because the association between takeaway consumption and WC was only significant in women, this suggests this may be of greater concern than in men. No associations were identified in Asian, Black or mixed race subgroups and this may be due to smaller numbers or because their takeaway choices or other lifestyle factors were different6. The findings are limited by the use of an unvalidated questionnaire rather than analysis of food intake and because physical activity was not evaluated. In addition, these associations do not confirm a causative relationship between takeaway consumption and weight gain. However, the findings indicate that there may be concern about the future health of students consuming takeaways weekly or more often and this is worthy of further study.                     

CONCLUSION: Students who consumed takeaway meals at least once per week had a higher prevalence of overweight and in women and White students, there was also evidence of greater abdominal adiposity.                       

REFERENCES       1. Prentice AM & Jebb SA. Fast foods, energy density and obesity: a possible mechanistic link. Obes. Rev. 2003;4:187–194.         2. Rosenheck R. Fast food consumption and increased caloric intake: a systematic review of a trajectory towards weight gain and obesity risk. Obes. Rev. 2008;9:535–547.        3. Fraser L, Edwards K, Cade J. & Clarke G. The Geography of Fast Food Outlets: A Review. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2010;7:2290–308.          4. Health Survey for England (2014). Methods and documentation. accessed 22 October 2016.         5. Gatineau M & Mathrani S. Obesity and ethnicity. Oxford: National Obesity Observatory; 2011.        6. Gilbert P. & Khokhar S. Changing dietary habits of ethnic groups in Europe and implications for health. Nutr. Rev. 2008;66:203–215.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages52
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2017
EventBritish Dietetics Association Research Symposium 2016 - , United Kingdom
Duration: 7 Dec 20167 Dec 2016


ConferenceBritish Dietetics Association Research Symposium 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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