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Title: Relationship between diet quality, nutrition status and academic performance of first and non-first generation university students in Durban
Authors: Ndlovu, Ntombenhle Pretty 
Issue Date: 2017
Introduction: Many studies have attempted to establish the association between the academic performance of university students and various factors that impact on academic performance. Students’ socio-economic backgrounds have been cited as a significant predictor of academic success among university students, with first generation students (FG) reporting a lower retention and graduation rate compared to non-first generation (NFG) students. First generation students are those that are the first in a family to enroll in institutions of higher learning, whether college or university, while NFG students, are students whose parents or siblings have attended an institution of higher learning. The low academic success rate among FG students is mainly attributed to unpreparedness for college/university, financial challenges and lack of support from family.

Aim: The aim of the study was to determine the relationship between diet quality, nutrition status and academic performance of first generation and non-first generation university students in Durban.

Methodology: A total of 270 randomly selected students (135 FG and 135 NFG) between the ages of 18 and 30 years participated voluntarily in the study. The study was descriptive in nature with a cross-sectional design. Trained fieldworkers administered the questionnaires in an interview setting. A socio-demographic questionnaire measured the socio-economic characteristics of the students; anthropometric measurements were used to determine the nutritional status against the WHO cut-off points; three 24 hour recall questionnaires and a food frequency questionnaire determined their diet quality and nutrition adequacy, and the students’ matric and first year results were used to measure academic performance. The socio-demographic questionnaire, anthropometric measurements and the academic results were captured on Microsoft Excel® and analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences® (SPSS) version 21.0. A trained nutrition professional captured and analyzed the 24 hour data using the Food Finder® version 3 computer programme.

Results: The sample was fairly representative of both groups of students and genders with 20% (n=52) FG men, (17%; n=44) NFG men, (30%; n=78) FG women, and 33% (n=86) NFG women. The majority of FG (63.1%; n=82) and NFG (59.2%; n=77) students came from townships, and the highest number of students (FG 60.7%; n=79 and NFG 49.3%; n=64) depended on student loans to pay for university fees. Furthermore, most of the FG (76.8%; n=100) and NFG (81.5%; n=106) students lived in university residences. Although the highest number of FG students (38.5%; n=50) had a household income of between R0–R500 compared to the highest number of NFG students having a household income of R501–R1000 per month, the highest number of both groups of students (FG=25.4%; n=33 and NFG=26.2%; n=34) spent R401–R500 per month on food, and almost 50% of both groups of students indicated that they sometimes lacked money to buy food. Non-first generation students were affected by obesity more so than FG students, with one (2.27%) NFG man and 13.92% (n=12) affected by obesity class I (BMI 30-34.99), and 4.65% (n=4) NFG women falling within the obesity class II range (BMI of 35-39.99), compared to none of the FG men affected by obesity, and only 3.85% (n=3). Furthermore, a higher number of NFG students exceeded the WC cut-off points for men (102cm) and women (88cm) compared to FG students, with none of the FG men exceeding the cut-off points for men, compared to 1.82% of NFG men, and only 20.51% of FG women exceeding the cut-off points for women compared to 32.61%. The waist-to-height ratio also indicated that a higher percentage (63.74%) of NFG women exceeded the cut-off point (˃0.5) compared to 60.25% of FG women.

Refined carbohydrate based foods made up the majority of the students’ diet, with the top 3 foods among FG and NFG men being carbohydrate based (maize meal pap, bread/rolls, and rice), and the top two foods being rice and bread/rolls among FG and NFG women. All the students (FG and NFG), failed to meet the WHO’s recommendation of consuming ≥400g of fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, between 80-100% of men and women (FG and NFG) failed to meet the RDI’s for calcium, magnesium, and vitamins C, D, E and K. Although both FG and NFG students reported few protein rich sources on the top 20 foods lists, all the students exceeded the DRI for protein with mean (SD) intakes of (62.62g±21.984) by FG men, 70.98g±25.534 (NFG men), 57.97g±23.248 (FG women), and 55.94g±18.397 (NFG women). Carbonated drinks were ranked 6th for both FG and NFG men, and 8th among FG and NFG women, with NFG men reporting a higher per capita intake per day (142.52g) compared to FG men (115.67g) and among women, a per capita intake of 106.07g (FG) 96.95g (NFG). Both FG and NFG students reported low food variety scores (<30 individual foods), with FG men reporting a slightly higher mean (SD) FVS (28.56±10.079) compared to 27.41±10.342 of NFG men, and NFG women reported a higher mean (SD) FVS (29.92±8.549) compared to 28.67±10.775 (FG women). The majority of the students (FG and NFG) reported high food group diversity scores (FGDS), with the majority of men (FG=98.08%; n=51 and NFG=93.18%; n=41) and women (FG=94.9%; n= 74 and NFG=100%; n=86) reporting a high FGDS (6-9 food groups).

The matric results of the participants indicated that 100% (n=260) of all the students (FG and NFG) passed matric with a pass rating of 3-6, and the first year academic results indicated that the highest number of FG and NFG students passed the first year of university with a percentage range of 51-74% [FG men=92.31(n=48); NFG men=86.36 (n=38); FG women=93.59% (n=73); and NFG women=84.88 (n=73)]. The first year results also showed that a higher number of NFG (11.36%; n=5) men and women (10.47%; n=9) failed the first year of university compared to the FG men (5.77%; n=3) and women (5.13%; n=4).

Conclusion: Although there are some statistically significant correlations between some of the variables, it does not prove conclusively that diet and nutrition status had an impact on the academic performance of this group of students. Due to the lack of diversity with regard to socio-demographic factors, including socio-economic profile and race, no notable differences were observed except in the case of nutrition status, where a higher incident of obesity was observed among NFG students compared to FG students. Inter-gender differences were more apparent compared to inter-generation differences.
Submitted in fulfilment of the requirements of the Masters in Food and Nutrition, Durban University of Technology, Durban South Africa, 2017.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Applied Sciences)

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