The Diet Quality of Medical Students in the United States During the Early COVID-19 Pandemic
Keywords:Medical students, Diet, Body mass index, COVID-19 pandemic, Diet surveys
Background: Medical students report lacking the knowledge to conduct nutrition counseling for patients and practice good dietary quality in their personal life. This cross-sectional study describes the dietary quality of medical students at one Midwestern College of medicine during the early COVID-19 pandemic in the United States of America.
Methods: Cross-sectional study based on a survey applied to medical students (n=102) during spring 2020. We used the Rapid Eating Assessment for Participants–Shortened (REAP-S) to assess dietary quality during the COVID-19 pandemic. The response rate was 27%. The primary outcome was to obtain total mean REAP-S scores and identify variables related to poor diet quality.
Results: A mean REAP-S score of 30.5, SD=3.9 (range 13-39) was obtained (67% of ideal dietary quality). Body weight remained the same for 54.9% of students, 25.7% gained weight, and 18.8% lost weight during the late spring of 2020. Students with BMI < 24.9 kg/m2 (mean REAP-S score of 31.6±3.6) had a significantly better dietary quality (p < 0.001) compared to students with BMI > 25 kg/m2 (mean REAP-S score of 28.9±3.9). Students with a self-reported “less healthy” diet (mean REAP-S=28.2±3.3) had significantly worse dietary quality (p < 0.001) compared to those who either maintained a healthy diet (mean REAP-S=31.1±3.8) or improved diet (mean REAP-s=31.9±3.6). Of note, 89.2% of students indicated that they want to improve their diet.
Conclusion: The dietary quality of participants was found to be sub-optimal during the early COVID-19 pandemic, potentially impacting our future medical workforce's long-term health adversely.
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