Effect of COVID-19 outbreak on the diet, body weight and food security status of students of higher education: a systematic review

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The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted college students’ lifestyles and placed them at a greater risk of obesity and food insecurity. The purpose of the systematic review was to consolidate evidence for the effect of Covid-19 on students’ dietary quality, dietary habits, body weight and food security status. A comprehensive literature search was conducted utilising various databases including Google Scholar, MEDLINE, ScienceDirect, Embase and Scopus to identify relevant studies. To be incorporated in this review, studies had to include higher education students, measure the prevalence of food insecurity and assess the dietary and body weight changes during the COVID-19 pandemic. The studies showed that the diet quality of college students was compromised during the pandemic in many nations due to the decrease in the intake of whole grains, dairy products, legumes, nuts, fruits and vegetables and the increase in consumption of alcohol, confectionery products and refined grains. There was an increase in the frequency of cooking, binge eating, breakfast skipping and unhealthy snacking. These modifications, in return, were associated with body weight changes, with no less than 20 to 30 % of students gaining weight during the pandemic. The pandemic also impacted food security status of students, with over 30% being food insecure worldwide. The COVID-19 outbreak has exacerbated the students’ diet quality and dietary habits and placed them under high risk of weight gain and food insecurity. Higher education institutions and governments should improve students’ access to nutritious foods and incorporate nutrition education interventions in the curricula.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.