Examining the Relationship Between Intuitive Eating and Diet Quality Among College Students

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Current Developments in Nutrition

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Supplement 2



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College students in the US tend to have low diet quality due to a confluence of interpersonal, intrapersonal, and environmental factors. Restrictive dieting is commonly used for weight management but often ineffective in the long term and can lead to dangerous eating behaviors. Intuitive eating is an adaptive form of eating that has gained interest as an alternative to restrictive dieting due to its successful use in eating disorder recovery and correlation with decreased body mass index in healthy populations. The objective of the current study was to identify if higher intuitive eating, as measured by the intuitive eating scale (IES-2), correlated with increased diet quality, as measured by the Healthy Eating Index 2015 (HEI-2015) in a college sample.
In this cross-sectional study, participants completed an online survey containing the IES-2 questionnaire which provides a total score for intuitive eating and four subscale scores representing the main behaviors of intuitive eating. The dietary intake of participants was assessed with up to three 24-hour diet recalls, which were completed over the phone. A total of 55 participants (40 females and 15 males) completed the survey and a minimum of two 24-hour diet recalls, which were used to calculate the HEI-2015. Independent sample t-test and Pearson's correlation were used for statistical analysis.
The total IES-2 scores were higher for males than females (82.9 ± 8.1 vs. 76.3 ± 11.2, P = 0.04). The average total HEI-2015 score was 59.5 ± 15.1 and did not differ between gender (P = 0.93). The total IES-2 score was not significantly correlated with the total HEI scores (r = −0.218, P = 0.11), and one subscale of the IES-2, the Unconditional Permission to Eat subscale, was negatively correlated with the total HEI score (r = −0.418, P < 0.01) and BMI (r = −0.335, P < 0.05).
The results of the study do not support that intuitive eating is correlated with diet quality, furthermore, increased scores of the Unconditional Permission to Eat subscale of intuitive eating was correlated with a lower diet quality suggesting that intuitive eating and diet quality may be separate constructs that should be addressed individually.
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body mass index procedure, diet, eating disorders, environmental factors, feeding behaviors, telephone, eating, gender, weight maintenance regimens, healthy diet, college students


This is the Version of Record and can also be read online here.

Originally presented on 5/29/20 at the American Society for Nutrition Annual Conference virtually.


Nutrition, Food Science and Packaging