Vending machine use has been associated with low dietary quality among
children but there is limited evidence on its role in food habits of
University students. We aimed to examine the nutritional value of foods
sold in vending machines in a UK University and conduct formative
research to investigate differences in food intake and body weight by
vending machine use among 137 University students. The nutrient content
of snacks and beverages available at nine campus vending machines was
assessed by direct observation in May 2014. Participants (mean age 22.5
years; 54% males) subsequently completed a self-administered
questionnaire to assess vending machine behaviours and food intake.
Self-reported weight and height were collected. Vending machine snacks
were generally high in sugar, fat and saturated fat, whereas most
beverages were high in sugar. Seventy three participants (53.3%) used
vending machines more than once per week and 82.2% (n 60) of
vending machine users used them to snack between meals. Vending machine
accessibility was positively correlated with vending machine use (r = 0.209, P = 0.015).
Vending machine users, compared to non-users, reported a significantly
higher weekly consumption of savoury snacks (5.2 vs. 2.8, P = 0.014), fruit juice (6.5 vs. 4.3, P = 0.035), soft drinks (5.1 vs. 1.9, P = 0.006), meat products (8.3 vs. 5.6, P = 0.029) and microwave meals (2.0 vs. 1.3, P = 0.020).
No between-group differences were found in body weight. Most foods
available from vending machines in this UK University were of low
nutritional quality. In this sample of University students, vending
machine users displayed several unfavourable dietary behaviours,
compared to non-users. Findings can be used to inform the development of
an environmental intervention that will focus on vending machines to
improve dietary behaviours in University students in the UK.
Date of Acceptance: 20/10/2015
- University students
- vending machines
- food habits
- body weight
- formative research