Graduation Term


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Department of Family and Consumer Sciences

Committee Chair

Jennifer Barnes


Background: Depression is one of the most common health problems in college students. Understanding the associations between diet quality, total blood cholesterol, sleep quality, and depressive symptoms could aide in improving the mental health of this population.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the association between diet quality, omega-3 fatty acid intake, total blood cholesterol levels, sleep quality, and depressive symptoms in college students.

Design: Data were collected from a convenience sampling of participants in a general physical fitness course at Illinois State University. The Healthy Eating Index 2010 (HEI), a composite measure to assess adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, was used to analyze five-day food logs to determine diet quality. The food logs were also used to determine participants’ daily omega-3 intake. Cholesterol was determined with a simple lipid profile. The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) was used to determine sleep quality while the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) assessed depressive symptoms. Data were analyzed using Spearman and partial correlations.

Participants: All individuals enrolled in the general physical fitness course during 2016 were eligible to participate in the study with a total of 79 individuals consenting to participate. A total of 36 participants, aged 18 to 31 years, had complete data sets and were included in analysis.

Results: Better diet quality, indicated by higher HEI scores were associated with better sleep quality (lower PSQI scores (r = -.57, p =.021). Better diet quality was also associated with higher intakes of omega-3 after controlling for age (r = .627, p =.012) and gender (r = .614, p =.015). Higher intakes of omega-3 were associated with depressive symptoms after controlling for age (r = .631, p =.012) and gender (r = .613, p =.015).

Conclusions: Better adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 was associated with higher consumption of omega-3 and better sleep quality than individuals with poorer adherence to the guidelines. This study also indicates that omega-3 fatty acid intake is positively associated with depressive symptoms.

KEYWORDS: Cholesterol, Depression, Diet, Omega-3 Fatty Acid, Sleep


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