Date of Award

Spring 5-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

First Advisor

Simone P. Camel


In recent years, forms of the vegetarian diet have been popularized for various reasons, including health benefits, support of animal rights, and greater sustainability claims. The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to examine the diet quality and adequacy and iron status of college students’ diets, and compare eating disorder (ED) risk between self-proclaimed vegetarians and non-vegetarians. The study sample was a convenience sample of students at Louisiana Tech University who were 18 years of age or older (N = 179). Students were recruited via email, flyers, and classroom announcements. Participants completed an online questionnaire with multiple validated tests; The Rapid Eating Assessment for Participants – Shortened Version (REAP-S) for diet quality, the Bratman Test for Orthorexia, and the SCOFF Questionnaire for eating disorder risk.

There were 179 participants included in the analysis for this study. The mean age was 21 +/- 4.6 years; majority were female (n = 129, 72.07%) and White (n = 134, 74.86%). Body Mass Index (BMI) ranged from 16.8 to 46.4, with a mean BMI of 25.7 (SD = 5.7). Four (2.25%) participants were categorized as underweight, 94 (53.12%) as healthy weight, 46 (25.99%) as overweight, and 33 (18.64%) as obese.

A significant, inverse relationship was found between REAP-S scores and BMI; an increased diet quality was linked with a lower BMI. This is consistent with the literature supporting that a healthy diet can mitigate overweight and obesity among the college population. Participants averaged a score of 27.1 out of 39 on the REAP-S, indicating moderate diet quality, indicating that there are still improvements to be made. A number of participants, 38.20% (n = 68), reported eating less than two servings of fruit daily, and 29.21% (n = 52) reported eating less than two servings of vegetables daily.

The mean hemoglobin level for females was 14.09 g/dl (SD =1.36). Twenty-four percent of the females were found to have below-normal hemoglobin levels (Hbg < 12.1 g/dl), 72.22% had normal hemoglobin levels (Hgb 12.1-15.1 g/dl), and 3.70% had high levels (Hbg > 15.1 g/dl). The mean hemoglobin level for males was 15.87 (SD =1.48). Three (6.25%) males had below-normal Hgb levels (Hgb < 13.1 g/dl), 62.50% had normal hemoglobin levels (Hgb 13.1-16.6 g/dl), and 31.25% high levels (Hgb > 16.6 g/dl). There was a positive correlation found between BMI and Hemoglobin levels for males r (48) = .348, p = .018. No significant correlations were found between Hgb and the BOT, SCOFF, or REAP-S scores. There were no significant correlations found between Hbg and BMI, BOT, SCOFF, or REAP-S scores for the female group.

A significant, positive correlation was found between SCOFF scores and Bratman Test scores, r (176) = .167, p = < .001. As the risk of having an eating disorder increased, so did the risk of experiencing orthorexia. A significant, positive correlation was also found between REAP-S scores and Bratman Test scores, r (171) = .382, p = < .001, indicating that higher diet quality scores were associated with higher risks for orthorexia. A significant, inverse relationship was found between REAP-S scores and BMI, r (158) = -.167, p = .036; as diet quality increased, BMI decreased. To further explore the relationships among participant characteristics, participants were divided into health-related or non-health-related groups. Both the REAP-S scores and Bratman Test results were found to be significantly different between the groups, t (170) = 4.06, (p = < .001) and t (175) = 3.00, (p = .003), respectively. Health-related majors were found to have greater diet quality scores and a higher risk of eating disorders when compared to non-health-related majors.

Having a very small percentage of vegetarian and vegan participants limited full analysis related to vegetarianism. However, this study provides nutrition professionals with valuable information regarding diet adequacy, eating disorder risk, hemoglobin levels, as well as the prevalence of vegetarianism among college students at Louisiana Tech University. Specifically, these results indicate that students in health-related majors may be at greater risk for orthorexia as they strive for higher diet quality and might also be at greater risk for other eating disorders. Results also indicated that students who maintain a diet of higher quality might have lower BMIs than their peers.