Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


College of Education and Human Services


Nutrition and Food Studies

Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Lauren Dinour

Committee Member

Yeon Bai

Committee Member

Kathteen Skrobala


Sugar--Physiological effect, Body mass index, Beverages, College students--Health and hygiene--United States


Background: The obesity epidemic in America has become an important topic of public health concern. With an increase of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) in the American diet, much research has been done examining the relationships between obesity, weight gain, body mass index (BMI) and SSBs. Recently, this research has expanded to examining these variables among specific populations, such as university students, to learn how detrimental these beverages have become to the American diet. It is imperative that research is continued to learn more information surrounding university students, weight gain, and its relationship with SSB intake.

Purpose: It is the purpose of this study to determine if there is a relationship between SSB consumption and BMI among university students, and if this relationship differs based on students’ residency.

Methods: Utilizing a snowball sample, participants were recruited from a large, public university in the Northeastern United States, via email listservs, Canvas, and various social media platforms. Participants were considered eligible for participation if they were over the age of 18 years old and a current student at Montclair State University. Participants were asked questions regarding their demographics, motivations for purchasing SSBs, locations for purchasing and consuming SSBs, and a beverage recall. Data were collected in Limesurvey software and exported into Statistical Analysis Software Package (SPSS, IBM) version 24, for analysis. Data analysis included descriptive statistics for descriptive demographics, locations of purchasing and consuming, and motivations for purchasing and consuming, independent sample t-tests to examine differences between groups such as commuters and residents, males and females, and Pearson’s r correlations to determine relationships between variables such as BMI and SSBs.

Results: Of the 200 participants, the majority were undergraduates (81.5%), female (77.5%), Caucasian (66%), and half residential students (50%). One-third (33%) of this sample was overweight or obese as determined by their BMI. Overall, students living on campus have a higher BMI than those living off campus (BMI of 25.29 ±5.35, and 23.97 ± 4.03, respectively) by about 1.32 kg/m2. The average SSB intake among this sample was 13.98 ±22.91 fluid ounces per day, which is two ounces below the national average. This equates to an average of 155 calories per day from SSBs. The students consuming the most SSBs were residential students and students with a meal plan, consuming 16.25 ±26.58 and 19.49 ±27.33 fluid ounces, respectively. Similarly, there was a significant positive relationship between SSB intake and BMI among all students, but especially those living on campus, and those with a meal plan. Correlation of SSB intake and BMI between undergraduate students and graduate students was also found to be positively associated. This correlation is slightly stronger among men than women meaning males consuming excess SSBs are more likely to have an increased BMI. Students most frequently reported consuming SSBs because they enjoy the taste (72%) and to mix with alcohol (50%). Most students reported that they do not consume SSBs to enhance their academic or athletic performance (90%). Even though students living on campus and students with a meal plan are consuming the most SSBs, the majority of these students (62% of commuters and 69% of students with a meal plan) are purchasing SSBs at off-campus locations.

Conclusions: The results of this study reveal that there is a significant, positive relationship between SSB intake and BMI among this population of university students. As SSB intake increases, BMI does as well. Students living on campus and students with a meal plan are not only consuming the most of these beverages 16.25 ±26.58 and 19.49 ±27.33 fluid ounces, respectively, but are also experiencing the implications of it, by having a higher BMI than their peers consuming less SSBs. The importance of these findings is that it shows the significance of SSB intake among a university sample in Northern New Jersey. With SSBs being largely consumed among this sample, this relationship should be more closely examined to decrease the risk of obesity among young adults attending university. The completion of this research allows for public health professionals to create an appropriate nutrition education intervention for college students with different living arrangements to decrease the consumption of SSBs overall.

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