To investigate healthy behaviors associated with adherence to the Mediterranean diet in young adults.
Behavioral factors were assessed using a self-completed questionnaire in 193 students enrolled in one public and one private university in Cyprus. A health habit score ranging from 0 to 5 was devised based on information on: Breakfast consumption, eating fried food, eating away from home, exercise and smoking. Adherence to the Mediterranean diet was evaluated using the validated KIDMED index.
Adherence to the Mediterranean diet was found to be average for the majority of young adults, with 21.8% being classified as low adherers, and 26.9% as high adherers. A higher health habit score was associated with higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet (0.614 higher average adherence (95% CI: 1.07 to 1.55) for one unit change in health habit score). About 63% of students reported consuming breakfast on a regular basis, while half consumed three or fewer meals per day. The main person responsible for preparing meals at home were the parents (63.7%). A little over half of study participants (55.4%) reported currently exercising, with only half of them feeling happy with their body weight. Tobacco use was relatively high among students (24%).
A higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet was associated with a healthier overall behavioral pattern, including regular breakfast consumption, exercise, positive body image, higher meal frequency and water consumption, lower fried food consumption and lower consumption of meals away from home. Enhancing such positive health behaviors is likely to have an independent and lasting effect on later adulthood behaviors and health.