Anna Morton, Eric Hall, Simon Higgins. Elon University, Elon, NC.

BACKGROUND: Literature suggests that an average young adult will gain around 7.5 pounds during their first year of college. Importantly, accelerated weight gain during this time is associated with increased lifetime risk of obesity and heart disease. Characteristics of the family environment, such as how often the family eats per day, whether those meals are home cooked, and family food choices play a significant role in the development of eating habits. However, there is little information on how such characteristics impact dietary choices as young adults begin to make independent food decisions in the college setting. Thus, the purpose of the study is to, first, establish cross-sectional associations among characteristics of the family environment and eating habits during youth, and second, determine whether those same characteristics are associated with changes in eating behaviors following the college transition. METHODS: This prospective study will follow high school seniors (n=75, 50% females), aged 17-18 years at study entry with no history of eating disorders. Participants will be assessed twice with baseline assessments occurring during the spring semester of senior year and follow-up assessments occurring during the first semester of college. Characteristics of the family environment, including how often the family eats together and the source of meal (e.g., home-cooked or take-out) will be assessed using questions taken from the Family Eating and Activity Habits Questionnaire. Eating habits, including total caloric intake, fruits and vegetable consumption, and added sugars, will be assessed using the National Cancer Institute’s automated self-administered 24-hour (ASA24) dietary assessment tool. Associations among characteristics of the family environment and both cross-sectional and prospective eating habits will be assessed using linear regression. ANTICIPATED RESULTS: We anticipate that family units that eat together more frequently and tend to eat more home-cooked meals will be associated with positive eating habits during high school. We also anticipate that these same characteristics will be associated with more stable (less detrimental changes) eating habits as participants transition to college. FUNDING: Funding for this project will be provided by the National Heart, Lung, And Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R15HL159650 and Undergraduate Research Program at Elon University.

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