Objective: To evaluate undergraduates’ student sodium and potassium intakes, their perceptions towards these parameters and their cardiovascular health at The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.
Methods: The study is a cross-sectional study with a self-administered on-line questionnaire which included a three-day semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire. The variables measured were: sodium and potassium intakes, body mass index (BMI) and the students’ perceptions of their health and dietary intake. The data analyses included: descriptive statistics, t-tests and one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) with Tukey post-hoc test with statistical significance at the 95% confidence level.
Results: One hundred and five students aged 24.3 ± 7.9 years participated with a response rate of 8.8%. Ninety-three (89%) of the participants were Afro-Caribbean. Dietary sodium (3446 ± 1889 mg/daily) and potassium (2740 ± 1957 mg/daily) were estimated. The students with under-estimated sodium and potassium intakes consumed significantly more compared to the students who over-estimated their intake (p < 0.05). The participants who under-estimated their weights had higher BMI values. Thirty per cent of the sample also indicated that they were unaware if they were at risk of developing a cardiovascular disease.
Conclusions: There is excessive dietary sodium and suboptimal potassium intakes which are coupled with the students’ poor health perceptions. The findings support the need for more robust studies which can support the establishment of interventions to decrease cardiovascular (CVD) behavioural risk factors among undergraduate students.