Acculturation and environmental factors influencing dietary behaviors and body mass index of Chinese students in the United States

Beiwen Wu, Chery Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Focus groups (n = 7) were conducted with Chinese students (n = 43) studying in the USA to determine how acculturation and environmental factors influence dietary behavior and body mass index (BMI). This study used mixed methodology, collecting both qualitative (focus groups) and quantitative (24-h dietary recalls, food adoption scores, degree of acculturation, and height and weight measures) data. Themes emerging from focus group discussions were: a) dietary and social acculturation, b) factors influencing food intake, c) cultural importance of food, and d) changes in weight and BMI status. Environmental, behavioral, and cultural factors appear to have impacted the eating behaviors of the students. Because of the nature of the study, self-reported heights and weights were used to calculate BMI while living in China and actual heights and weights were taken for each student at the focus group to calculate current BMI after living in the USA. The majority of Chinese students (69% males; 85% females) experienced weight gain, resulting in an increased BMI based on weight/height data and as reported in focus group discussions. As a result, if students continue to gain weight, they may be at higher risk of developing chronic diseases in the future. Further, implemented dietary change may be transferred to other family members if students return to China. Results suggest that nutrition education should be provided to incoming foreign students during their orientation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)324-335
Number of pages12
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank all of the students who participated in this study. This project was funded by the University of Minnesota's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program ( 1000-11026-20083-4725707 ) and the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station ( MN 18-102 ).


  • Acculturation
  • Eating behavior
  • Raw versus cooked
  • Weight status


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