Wageningen University & Research has started a study among first-year bachelor students. The aim is to monitor their mental and physical health and see how this relates to their diet and lifestyle. The aim is to follow this Wageningen Student Cohort for 10 years.
Stress and depression
The official name of the study is: “Dietary changes and markers of stress and depression in first-year bachelor students at Wageningen University”. The aim is to investigate whether, why and how students change their eating patterns and whether there are changes in stress levels, depressive feelings and nutritional status. In addition, lifestyle factors other than nutrition are also identified, such as exercise and sleep. The ultimate goal is to follow the cohort for 10 years, so that the development of diseases can also be taken into account. Currently there is only funding for the first year and the researchers are still working to secure funding for beyond that.
Blood, urine, feces and hair
Currently, 80 first-year students have already registered for the research project. Because the researchers are aiming for at least 200 participants and preferably several thousand, they are still recruiting students. Students who participate will have their blood taken twice in the first year of the study to determine their nutritional status. Urine, stool and hair samples are also taken. Weight, height, waist and hip circumference are measured four times a year and the hemoglobin level is determined with a finger prick. In addition, participants complete questionnaires 4 times a year about their physical health, eating behavior, sleeping habits, physical activity and mental health (stress, anxiety and depressive feelings). They also enter into an app four times a year at several times during a week what they have eaten and drunk in the past few hours. Students receive a participant allowance of approximately 90 euros per year.
The project’s lead researcher, nutritional scientist Nicole de Roos, is particularly interested in the eating habits of first-year students. ‘They still eat potatoes, vegetables and meat with their parents, so to speak, but as soon as they move into a room, that usually changes quickly.’ She is also curious about the weight of bachelor students. ‘I suspect that they will gain quite a bit of weight in the first 1 to 2 years, especially if they join a student association (because they will probably party and drink more, ed.). After that, the weight will decrease or normalize somewhat again.’ She is also curious about the influence of different diets on health. ‘In Wageningen there are relatively many students who eat vegetarian or vegan. For example, we want to monitor the consequences of this for the intake of vitamins.’