Introduction: The health of the population significantly depends on possessing skills that promote a healthy lifestyle, which can prevent numerous diseases, including dental ones. In the modern world, universities, regardless of the geographical location and nationality of their students, aim to instill among students an understanding of the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle [1,2]. Medical universities, including Yaroslav-the-Wise Novgorod State University’s Institute of Medical Education, through their teaching staff, should pay more attention to the initial formation of proper habits based on a healthy lifestyle for future doctors and for transmitting the principles of a healthy lifestyle through them to future patients. This is because a physician who does not know and does not adhere to a healthy lifestyle cannot effectively convey its importance to patients.
Aim and Objectives: To study the nature and meal schedule of first-year students at Yaroslav-the-Wise Novgorod State University’s Institute of Medical Education.
Materials and Methods: Questionnaire surveys (100 surveys), literature review, analysis of statistical data from the Russian Federation, India, Egypt, and Pakistan.
Research Results and Discussion: The level of awareness among 1st to 3rd-year students (Russian and foreign) at the Medical Institute of Novgorod State University was assessed through surveys. The questionnaire consisted of four sections: the presence of harmful habits, assessment of dietary quality, physical parameters (weight, height, body mass index), and the level of physical activity [3,4]. Regardless of their place of residence before enrolling at Novgorod State University, the majority of students did not report a smoking habit. The percentage of non-smoking foreign freshmen was 89.04%, and 86.02% among senior students. It is noteworthy that all foreign students who did not smoke at the time of the survey also did not smoke in their home countries. The survey results regarding the presence of harmful habits among 1st to 3rd-year students are as follows: approximately 76% of Russian freshmen and approximately 69% of Russian senior students did not smoke. Among foreign students, these percentages were higher by 14-16%. There are 2.3 times fewer smokers among freshmen compared to senior students. A significant portion of foreign students associate their smoking frequency with the level of stress, leading them to consume no less than 3 cigarettes per day [5,6,7].
The research results also allow for several interesting conclusions regarding the dietary habits of foreign students before and after their arrival in Russia [8,9]. Primarily, an increase in the intervals between meal consumption and the quantity of food consumed was noted by 100% of surveyed students after their relocation . The number of meal intakes among foreign students in Russia averages 1-2 times a day, whereas in their home countries, it was no less than 4 times a day. If students consumed a single meal, they tended to prefer evening or nighttime. Throughout the day, they had small snacks, with an emphasis on flour-based sweets. Interestingly, the responses of freshmen and senior students were largely similar.
One of the characteristics observed among all foreign students after their arrival in Russia is an increase in the consumption of tea and coffee. Approximately half of the respondents add 1.5-2 teaspoons of sugar to their beverage, while 16% of respondents do not sweeten their tea or coffee at all. As for confectionery products, 44% of respondents consumed them once a week or more before coming to Russia, and 47% consumed them 1-3 times a month. About 40% of students included pastries, pies, and candies in their daily diet before arriving in Russia, and after enrolling in the university, they did not change their habits and continued to consume these products. The frequency of consuming sweets and their varieties remained the same during their education. Regarding milk and other dairy products, their consumption frequency among foreign students did not change after their arrival in Russia, with approximately 55% of freshmen and 57% of senior students continuing to consume dairy products. A similar situation was observed with milk consumption among Russian students, where approximately 58% of freshmen and 47% of senior students drank milk regularly. Regarding hard cheeses, the frequency of consumption remained approximately the same both before starting their education and during their studies. About a third of students included cheese in their daily diet, while half consumed it weekly or monthly.
Finally, the dietary preferences and the ability to purchase various food items changed among foreign students during their period of study. Potatoes and black bread were daily staples for more than 95% of foreign students, with approximately 65% of them consuming crispy potatoes as a snack.
According to survey results, students from other countries often consumed poultry as a source of protein in their diet both in their home countries and while studying in Russia, avoiding beef, pork, and sausages. Unfamiliar and less familiar foods for foreign students included pickled foods, smoked fish, frozen mushrooms, and berries, and these products were absent from their diets. These dietary preferences were observed in 95% of foreign students, regardless of the duration of their stay in Russia. Vegetables were consumed less frequently by foreigners in Russia compared to their home countries, where vegetables and fruits were almost daily staples.
As for Russian students, approximately half of them consumed beef and pork almost weekly. Of these, 47% were freshmen, and 45% were senior students. The frequency of sausage consumption was approximately the same, with about one-third of students including them in their diet daily, weekly, or monthly. Chicken meat was consumed once or several times a week by 41% of freshmen, and this percentage increased by 29.3% with the progression of their studies. Bread was an integral part of the diet for almost all Russian students, with 3-5 servings consumed daily .
According to the survey results, foreign students did not consume alcohol in their home countries, but in Russia, due to the often cold weather, 25% of them started drinking beer, cognac, or vodka 1-2 times a month. Among Russian students, 64% of freshmen and 77% of senior students consumed alcohol. Among all students, about a quarter consumed dry wine and vodka.
The assessment of physical activity among foreign students proved to be contradictory. They rated their physical fitness as «very good» before coming to Russia, with 83% doing so, but after their arrival, they rated it as «average,» with 20% doing so. Upon arriving in Russia, they reported spending only 15 minutes per day on walking, compared to walking up to an hour a day in their home countries. Over 87% of foreign students reported a deterioration in their physical fitness and indicators during their adaptation and education in Russia. This is directly related to changes in climate conditions during the period of study, changes in dietary habits, language barriers, study challenges, and the availability of free time [11,12]. Foreign students view regular independent physical activities (such as national games) with friends after classes as the only way to maintain physical health. Only 10% of students engage in sports on a regular basis. Approximately 50% of foreign students who came to study at Novgorod State University reported gaining weight ranging from 3-7 kg during the academic year. Conversely, one-third of students lost weight, ranging from 2 to 5 kg, during their first year of study.
Meanwhile, Russian students did not show significant differences in responses regarding physical activity. Most of them spent their time in a sedentary position, with 61% of incoming freshmen and 68% of senior students indicating it as their primary form of leisure activity. Among freshmen, 33% engaged in physical exercises such as running, swimming, gymnastics, or skiing, and approximately 10% of them trained regularly several times a week. Most Russian students spent 15-40 minutes walking, while 1/5 of them preferred to spend less than 15 minutes (23% and 25%) per day. More than half of the students (47% of freshmen and 56% of senior students) considered their physical activity to be «average,» while only 21% described it as «insufficient,» which was twice as low as the number of freshmen.
In conclusion, there are certain issues with dietary preferences among both Russian and foreign students. Despite the often sedentary lifestyle associated with university studies, only a quarter of students engage in regular physical activity, and it’s even less among foreign students, with about 10%. Dietary habits and climatic factors contribute to a decline in the quality of life and an increase in dental diseases .
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