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A comparative study of food habits and body shape perception of university students in Japan and Korea

Ruka Sakamaki1*, Rie Amamoto1, Yoshie Mochida1, Naotaka Shinfuku2 and Kenji Toyama1

Author Affiliations

1 Seinan Jo Gakuin University, Faculty of Health and Welfare, Department of Nutritional Sciences, Kitakyusyu, 803-0835, Japan

2 Seinan Gakuin University, School of Human Sciences, Faculty of Social Welfare, Fukoka, 814-8511, Japan

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Nutrition Journal 2005, 4:31  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-4-31

Published: 31 October 2005



Abnormal body weight, dietary concerns, and unhealthy weight loss behaviors are increasingly being observed in young females in Japan. Our previous research has shown that the irregular lifestyles of female Japanese and Chinese students are significantly related to their desire to be thinner. In the present study, we compare the food habits and body shape preferences of female university students in South Korea and Japan to explore body shape perceptions in those populations.


A total of 265 female university students aged 19 – 25 years participated in this study. University students in Korea (n = 141) and university students in Japan (n = 124) completed a self-reported questionnaire. Data were analyzed using SPSS statistical software. Descriptive statistics were used to identify the demographic characteristics of the students and parametric variables were analyzed using the Student's t-test. Chi-square analyses were conducted for non-parametric variables.


Comparison of body mass index (BMI) distributions in Japan and Korea showed the highest value in the normal category (74%) together with a very low obesity rate (1.2%). Significant differences were observed between the two countries in terms of eating patterns, with more Japanese eating breakfast daily and with Japanese students eating meals more regularly than Korean students. A difference was also observed in frequency of meals, where Korean students reported eating meals two times per day (59%) and the majority of Japanese students reported eating meals three times per day (81%). Although most subjects belonged to the normal BMI category, their ideal BMI classification was the underweight category (BMI: 18.4 ± 3.4).


Few studies have compared the health related practices of Japanese and Korean university students. The present results suggest the necessity of nutrition and health promotion programs for university students, especially programs emphasizing weight management.