Factors Related to Unhealthy Eating Habits and to Physical Inactivity among Moroccan University Students


  • M. El Fessikh Faculty of Science, University Mohammed V in Rabat
  • H. Rkain, Laboratory of Information and Research on Bone Diseases (LIRPOS-URAC 30),
  • T. Dakka Laboratory of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy,
  • Y. Bakri Laboratory of Human Pathologies Biology, Faculty of Science,
  • N. Dakka Laboratory of Human Pathologies Biology, Faculty of Science,


Eating behavior, Exercise, Overweight, Obesity


Several studies in the Arab world have reported that the dietary habits of the people have become more westernized. We aimed to identify prevalence of unhealthy eating habits and to physical inactivity among university students of Rabat (Morocco) and to search possible factors associated with eating habits and to physical inactivity. A study of 223 healthy Moroccan students aged 20-25 years was conducted. Height, weight and waist circumference were measured, using standardized equipment and procedures. Skinfold thickness was measured using a Harpenden skinfold caliper. Eating habits and physical activity were examined using a questionnaire. Sixteen point six percent of students were overweight or obese, 24.7% had an abdominal obesity and 34.1% had excess of fat. Students feeding included a high consumption of animal products and not enough fruits and vegetables. This reflects the remoteness of the Mediterranean diet in favor of the Western diet. One in three student skipped breakfast and more than 7/10 students nibbled between meals. These imbalances appeared more significant amongst women. A sedentary lifestyle, with no practice of regular physical activity, concerned 2/3 of the surveyed students and was associated with female sex and higher fat thickness. Precautionary measures must be urgently set in place to control the growing overweight and obesity frequencies. A protocol to make students aware of the harm of physical inactivity and an imbalanced diet, and of the necessity to follow a well-balanced diet and to increase physical activity for better health surveillance.


Davis, C., Bryan, J., Hodgson, J. and Murphy, K. 2015. Definition of the Mediterranean Diet; A Literature Review. Nutrients 7(11): 9139-53.

El Rhazi, K., Nejjari, C., Zidouh, A., Berraho, M. and Barberger Gateau, P. 2010. Prevalence of obesity and associated sociodemographic and lifestyle factors in Morocco. Public Health Nutrition 14(1): 160-7.

El Rhazi, K. 2010. Nutritional transition, associated factors and emergence of chronic diseases in Morocco: cross-sectional study in general adult population. Bordeaux, France and Fes, Morocco: Victor Segalen Bordeaux-II and Sidi Mohamed Ibn Abdillah Universities, MSc thesis.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Nutrition and Consumer Protection Division (NCPD). 2011. Nutrition country profils: Kingdom of Morocco. Retrieved on 2018 from FAO Website: http://fao.org/tempref/AG/agn/nutrition/ncp/mar.pdf

Booth, F. W., Roberts, C. K. and Laye, M. J. 2012. Lack of exercise is a major cause of chronic diseases. Comprehensive Physiology 2(2): 1143-1211.

Hill, J. O., Wyatt, H. R. and Peters, J. C. 2012. Energy Balance and Obesity. Circulation 126(1): 126-132.

United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee (PAGAC). 2008. Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report. Retrieved on January 21, 2018 from ODPHP Website: https://health.gov/paguidelines/report/pdf/committeereport.pdf

Musaiger, A. O. 2002. Diet and prevention of coronary heart disease in the Arab Middle East countries. Medical Principles and Practice 11(2): 9-16.

Mehio Sibai, A., Nasreddine, L., Mokdad, A. H., Adra, N., Tabet, M. and Hwalla, N. 2010. Nutrition transition and cardiovascular disease risk factors in Middle East and North Africa countries: reviewing the evidence. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism 57(3-4): 193-203.

World Health Organization (WHO). 2003. Report of a WHO Consultation: obesity: preventing and managing the global epidemic. Retrieved on February 16, 2018 from WHO Website: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/42734/1/WHO_TRS_894_fre.pdf

Durnin, J. V. and Womersley, J. 1974. Body fat assessed from total body density and its estimation from skinfold thickness: measurements on 481 men and women aged from 16 to 72 years. British Journal of Nutrition 32(1): 77-97.

Siri, W. E. 1956. The gross composition of the body. Advances in Biological and Medical Physics 4: 239-80.

National Institute for Prevention and Health Education (France) (INPES) The Steering Committee of the French National Nutrition and Health Program (PNNS). 2002. The food guide for all: health comes by eating. Retrieved on January 03, 2018 from INPES Website: http://inpes.santepubliquefrance.fr/CFESBases/catalogue/pdf/581.pdf

World Health Organization (WHO). 2018. Fact sheet N°311: obesity and overweight. Retrieved on March 2, 2018 from WHO Website: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs311/en/

Oppert, J. M. and Basedevant, A. 2011. Cardiovascular complications. In Basdevant, A. (Eds). Medecine Sciences Publications, p. 197-201. Paris: Lavoisier.

Hartemann, A., Bourron, O. and Andreelli, F. 2011. Insulin resistance and diabetes. In Basdevant, A. (Eds). Medecine Sciences Publications, p. 192-195. Paris: Lavoisier.

Kaaks, R. and Calle, E. E. 2004. Overweight, obesity and cancer: epidemiological evidence and proposed mechanisms. Nature Reviews Cancer 4(8): 579-91.

Flegal, K. M., Shepherd, J. A., Looker, A. C., Graubard, B. I., Borrud, L. G., Ogden, C. L., Harris, T. B., Everhart, J. E. and Schenker, N. 2009. Comparisons of percentage body fat, body mass index, waist circumference, and waist-stature ratio in adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 89(2): 500-508.

Berthouze-Aranda, S. E. and Reynes, E. 2011. The sedentary lifestyle: a physical-psychological process and a health risk factor for all. Science et Sports 26: 191-6.

Song, W. O., Chun, O. K., Obayashi, S., Cho, S. and Chung, C. E. 2005. Is consumption of breakfast associated with body mass index in US adults? Journal of the American Dietetic Association 105(9): 1373-82.

Giovannini, M., Verduci, E., Scaglioni, S., Salvatici, E., Bonza, M., Riva, E. and Agostoni, C. 2008. Breakfast: a good habit, not a repetitive custom. Journal of International Medical Research 36(4): 613-24.

de Castro, J. M. 2004. The time of day of food intake influences overall intake in humans. Journal of Nutrition 134(1): 104-11.

Zizza, C., Siega-Riz, A. M. and Popkin, B. M. 2001. Significant increase in young adults snacking between 1977-1978 and 1994-1996 represents a cause for concern! Preventive Medicine 32(4): 303-10.

Bertéus Forslund, H., Torgerson, J. S., Sjöström, L. and Lindroos A. K. 2005. Snacking frequency in relation to energy intake and food choices in obese men and women compared to a reference population. International Journal of Obesity 29(6): 711-9.

Fabry, P., Hejl, Z., Fodor, J., Braun, T. and Zvolankova, K. 1964. The frequency of meals: its relation to overweight, hypercholesterolaemia and decreased glucose-tolerance. Lancet 2(7360): 614-5.

Ma, Y., Bertone, E. R., Stanek E. J. 3rd., Reed, G. W., Hebert, J. R., Cohen, N. L., Merriam, P. A. and Ockene, I. S. 2003. Association between eating patterns and obesity in a free-living US adult population. American Journal of Epidemiology 158(1): 85-92.

World Health Organization (WHO). 2012. Geneva: World Health Organization. Guideline: Sodium intake for adults and children. Retrieved on November 14, 2017 from WHO Website: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/77985/1/9789241504836_eng.pdf

World Health Organization (WHO). 2015. Geneva: World Health Organization. Guideline: Sugars intake for adults and children. Retrieved on November 14, 2017 from WHO Website: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/149782/1/9789241549028_eng.pdf

National Observatory for Human Development (ONDH). 2007. Vision 2020: Kingdom of Morocco. Retrieved on February 16, 2018 from ONDH Website: http://ondh.ma/sites/default/files/sante_vision_202020.pdf




How to Cite

El Fessikh, M., Rkain, H., Dakka, T., Bakri, Y., & Dakka, N. (2018). Factors Related to Unhealthy Eating Habits and to Physical Inactivity among Moroccan University Students. Asian Journal of Applied Sciences, 6(2). Retrieved from https://www.ajouronline.com/index.php/AJAS/article/view/5301