Senior theses study student obesity

Senior kinesiology major Kassandra Jones presents her senior project in the President’s Dining Room Tuesday as part of Assistant Professor of Kinesiology Sarah Dunn’s faculty lecture. Jones studied changes in body composition among first-year college students. She found that emotional eating and lifestyle behavior are large contributing factors toward those changes. / photo by Jerri White

Joshua Bay
Staff Writer

Sarah Dunn, assistant professor of kinesiology, led a presentation about the harmful effects of obesity in college students Tuesday in the President’s Dining Room.

Dunn discussed the correlation between students’ lifestyle behavior and inflammation in her faculty lecture “Changes in Body Composition, Lifestyle Behaviors, and Physiological Markers in Young College-Age Adults.”

“The prevalence of obesity is important to be aware of because of the disease risks later in life,” Dunn said.

“It has a huge economic burden on the healthcare system and the quality of life for many people.”

To supplement Dunn’s presentation, senior kinesiology major Kassandra Jones and alumnus Larry Vazquez presented their senior theses as well.

Jones discussed the parallels between body composition and eating behavior to body fat in first-year college students.

“The students who admit that they eat emotionally are more likely to have a higher body fat percentage,” Jones said.

“Also, the students who eat at Greek life events, on campus at Davenport, or fast food have a higher BMI.”

Vazquez, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology in January, examined the effects of a nutritional supplement called alpha lipoic acid on male students at the University.

“Unfortunately, there were no significant differences between the placebo group and experimental group in systemic inflammation,” Vazquez said.

“However, the significance in this research shows that we could lower systemic inflammation by using dietary supplements. We can potentially reduce the prevalence of obesity, and increase the quality of life and life expectancy to those affected with obesity.”

Sophomore biology major Jackie McGuigan found that there was a significant amount of factors missing in Jones’ presentation that should have been taken into account, such as the lack of null hypotheses.

“The fact that only the BMI was used … didn’t sit well with me because it only measures your height and weight, and not race, gender or bone density,” McGuigan said.

“None of those factors were taken into account, and I would have found it more interesting if they were.”

In addition, McGuigan wanted to know more information about Vazquez’s use of only male ULV students in his research.

“A lot of them go to the gym and take supplements, so I wanted to know if that was taken into account,” McGuigan said.

On the contrary, sophomore biology major Alexa Canchola believed Jones and Vazquez’s presentations were very well put together, but does agree with McGuigan in regards to wanting to hear more detail about their research.

“Because you have an audience that doesn’t know the nitty-gritty and doesn’t care about the nitty-gritty, it’s OK to omit certain details that we wanted to hear more about,” Canchola said.

“I do feel that they did a very good job and appeared very confident.”

Dunn was impressed with Jones and Vazquez’s research, complimenting them for their ability to present their senior theses in a professional and precise manner.

“It started the day they walked in the door wanting to do research to being in the presentation room on Monday, a holiday, to practice numerous times and feel comfortable,” Dunn said.

“The amount of time on they spent on their research represents the dedication and hard work they put into it.”

Joshua Bay can be reached at

Jerri White

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