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Changes in food neophobia and dietary habits of international students
International study is becoming more prevalent, yet aspects such as food neophobia often militate against visiting students consuming a nutritionally balanced diet. The present study aimed to evaluate the extent to which international post-graduate students experience food neophobia, how this might vary by nationality and other demographic characteristics, and how acculturation might manifest itself in students’ dietary behaviour. Methods:
International students (n = 228) attending a Masters course were invited to complete a validated food neophobia and dietary habits questionnaire during their first week at university. The questionnaire was subsequently re-administered to the same students approximately 4 and 8 months later. Results:
In total, 226 usable responses were analysed (124, 58 and 44, respectively) for the first, second and final data collection. Perhaps surprisingly, the overall food neophobia scores increased from an mean (SD) initial value of 27.95 (16.95) to 33.67 (33.67) after 3 months, although, when comparing European and Asian students, only the former were significantly different (P < 0.05). Both Asian and European students reported small but not significant changes in their eating habits, although, after 3 months, significantly (P = <0.05) fewer changes were reported. No significant changes were reported in students’ perceived healthiness of their diets either by nationality or over time. Conclusions:
Understanding the complexities of food neophobia, other aspects of dietary change and at what point these changes might take place in the acculturation process when students arrive in the UK needs to be fully understood if a climate for positive learning is to be established.
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