Understanding prevalence and attitudes: dietary and exercise behaviors among African American collegiate athletes

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Context: Eating disorders, a serious public health issue, affect an estimated 8-11 million Americans (Hudson, Hiripi, Pope & Kessler, 2007; National Institutes of Mental Health [NIMH], 2010). The lack of inclusion of diverse minority populations from robustly-designed eating disorder research has produced limitations to the generalizability for theory-based prevention, diagnosis, and treatment programs, particularly among non-Caucasian populations. Objectives: The purpose of this study was to examine eating and exercise behaviors among student-athletes enrolled at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) through application of existing disordered eating, exercise dependence, and body image instruments. Participants: A battery of surveys was disseminated to 601 varsity level athletes enrolled at HBCUs, of which 71% (N = 427) were used in the analysis. Outcomes and Procedures: The main outcomes of interests were eating disorder (ED) risk, exercise dependence (ExD) risk, and orthorexia nervosa (ON) risk, and difference between perceived and ideal body stature. These outcomes were operationalized through application of the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26), Exercise Dependence Scale (EDS-21), ORTO 15 questionnaire (ORTO 15), and Pulvers and colleagues' (2004) Figural Stimuli. Regression (Logistical and Simple), chi-square, ANOVA/ANCOVA, and simple descriptive statistical analyses served as quantitative means of measurement. Results: Findings revealed that among HBCU student-athletes in this study, 10.8% were at risk for an ED, 10.3% were at risk for ExD, and 66.3% were at risk for ON. With respect to ED and ON risk, between group differences did not exist among most men's sports, while race and academic classification group differences were present among several women's sports. The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) construct, attitude, exhibited the largest influence on future intentions to engage in disordered eating among both male (p = .005) and female (p = .001) participants. Significant differences between ideal and perceived body stature exist among female subjects (p < .001). Conclusions: The ED risk findings among HBCU student-athletes failed to challenge current literature as to populations at increased risk for an ED. Also, individual treatment for EDs and ExD among HBCU student-athletes at risk should occur concurrently. ON risk findings among HBCU athletes exceed levels reported for European populations. Since ON is a novel phenomenon in the US, future research is warranted with respect to other American populations and the at-risk ORTO 15 threshold for athletes.

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Public health, Health sciences, Health education