Melissa N Laska

University of Minnesota Duluth, Duluth, Minnesota, United States

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Publications (66)158.8 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: To identify and describe homogenous profiles of female college students based on weight-related behaviors and examine differences across 5 sexual orientation groups. Data from the 2009-2013 College Student Health Survey (Minnesota-based survey of 2- and 4-year college students) were used to fit latent class models. Four profiles were identified across all sexual orientation groups: "healthier eating habits," "moderate eating habits," "unhealthy weight control," and "healthier eating habits, more physically active." Differences in patterns and prevalence of profiles across sexual orientation suggest need for interventions addressing insufficient physical activity and unhealthy weight control behaviors. Future interventions should consider the diversity of behavioral patterns across sexual orientation to more effectively address weight-related behavioral disparities.
    American journal of health behavior 07/2015; 39(4):461-70. DOI:10.5993/AJHB.39.4.2 · 1.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Sexual minority college students (i.e., those not identifying as heterosexual, or those reporting same-sex sexual activity) may be at increased risk of poor mental health, given factors such as minority stress, stigma, and discrimination. Such disparities could have important implications for students' academic achievement, future health, and social functioning. This study compares reports of mental disorder diagnoses, stressful life events, and frequent mental distress across five gender-stratified sexual orientation categories. Data were from the 2007-2011 College Student Health Survey, which surveyed a random sample of college students (N=34,324) at 40 Minnesota institutions. Data analysis was conducted in 2013-2014. The prevalence of mental disorder diagnoses, frequent mental distress, and stressful life events were calculated for heterosexual, discordant heterosexual, gay or lesbian, bisexual, and unsure students. Logistic regression models were fit to estimate the association between sexual orientation and mental health outcomes. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual students were more likely to report any mental health disorder diagnosis than were heterosexual students (p<0.05). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and unsure students were significantly more likely to report frequent mental distress compared to heterosexual students (OR range, 1.6-2.7). All sexual minority groups, with the exception of unsure men, had significantly greater odds of experiencing two or more stressful life events (OR range, 1.3-2.8). Sexual minority college students experience worse mental health than their heterosexual peers. These students may benefit from interventions that target the structural and social causes of these disparities, and individual-level interventions that consider their unique life experiences. Copyright © 2015 American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    American journal of preventive medicine 05/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.amepre.2015.01.024 · 4.28 Impact Factor
  • Nicole A. VanKim, Darin J. Erickson, Melissa N. Laska
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    ABSTRACT: Food shopping is a complex behavior that consists of multiple dimensions. Little research has explored multiple dimensions of food shopping or examined how it relates to dietary intake. To identify patterns (or classes) of food shopping across four domains (fresh food purchasing, conscientious food shopping, food shopping locations, and food/beverage purchasing on or near campus) and explore how these patterns relate to dietary intake among college students. A cross-sectional online survey was administered. Students attending a public 4-year university and a 2-year community college in the Twin Cities (Minnesota) metropolitan area (N=1,201) participated in this study. Fast-food and soda consumption as well as meeting fruit and vegetable, fiber, added sugar, calcium, dairy, and fat recommendations. Crude and adjusted latent class models and adjusted logistic regression models were fit. An eight-class solution was identified: "traditional shopper" (14.9%), "fresh food and supermarket shopper" (14.1%), "convenience shopper" (18.8%), "conscientious convenience shopper" (13.8%), "conscientious, fresh food, convenience shopper" (11.8%), "conscientious fresh food shopper" (6.6%), "conscientious nonshopper" (10.2%), and "nonshopper" (9.8%). "Fresh food and supermarket shoppers" and "conscientious fresh food shoppers" had better dietary intake (for fast food, calcium, dairy, and added sugar), whereas "convenience shoppers" and "conscientious convenience shoppers," and "nonshoppers" had worse dietary intake (for soda, calcium, dairy, fiber, and fat) than "traditional shoppers." These findings highlight unique patterns in food shopping and associated dietary patterns that could inform tailoring of nutrition interventions for college students. Additional research is needed to understand modifiable contextual influences of healthy food shopping. Copyright © 2015 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 02/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.jand.2014.12.013 · 2.44 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Objectives and Participants. The purpose of this paper is to describe weight indicators and weight-related behaviors of students enrolled in 2-year colleges, including sex differences. Methods. During Fall 2011 and Spring 2012, 441 students from 3 Minnesota community colleges enrolled in the Choosing Healthy Options in College Environments and Settings (CHOICES) Study and completed baseline assessments. Participants completed a baseline survey evaluating eating and activity patterns, sleep, and stress and measures of height, weight, waist circumference, and body fat. Results. Participants were primarily female (68%), white (73%), with a mean age of 22.8 years and 66.2% reporting an annual income <$12,000. Almost half (47%) were overweight or obese. Young males appeared to engage the most in risky health behaviors and had higher levels of overweight or obesity, compared to young females. Conclusions. Findings confirm the need for innovative interventions targeting this understudied and underserved young adult population.
    Journal of American College Health 02/2015; 63(4). DOI:10.1080/07448481.2015.1015022 · 1.45 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: National data for the USA show increases in sports and energy drink consumption over the past decade with the largest increases among young adults aged 20-34 years. The present study aimed to identify sociodemographic factors and health-risk behaviours associated with sports and energy drink consumption among young adults. Cross-sectional analysis of survey data from the third wave of a cohort study (Project EAT-III: Eating and Activity in Teens and Young Adults). Regression models stratified on gender and adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics were used to examine associations of sports and energy drink consumption with eating behaviours, physical activity, media use, weight-control behaviours, sleep patterns and substance use. Participants completed baseline surveys in 1998-1999 as students at public secondary schools in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, USA and the EAT-III surveys online or by mail in 2008-2009. The sample consisted of 2287 participants (55 % female, mean age 25·3 years). Results showed 31·0 % of young adults consumed sports drinks and 18·8 % consumed energy drinks at least weekly. Among men and women, sports drink consumption was associated with higher sugar-sweetened soda and fruit juice intake, video game use and use of muscle-enhancing substances like creatine (P≤0·01). Energy drink consumption was associated with lower breakfast frequency and higher sugar-sweetened soda intake, video game use, use of unhealthy weight-control behaviours, trouble sleeping and substance use among men and women (P<0·05). Health professionals should consider the clustering of sports and energy drink consumption with other unhealthy behaviours in the design of programmes and services for young adults.
    Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 02/2015; 46(4):1-10. DOI:10.1017/S1368980015000191 · 1.47 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: (i) To examine associations between young adults' meal routines and practices (e.g. food preparation, meal skipping, eating on the run) and key dietary indicators (fruit/vegetable, fast-food and sugar-sweetened beverage intakes) and (ii) to develop indices of protective and risky meal practices most strongly associated with diet. Cross-sectional survey. Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area, Minnesota (USA). A diverse sample of community college and public university students (n 1013). Meal routines and practices most strongly associated with healthy dietary patterns were related to home food preparation (i.e. preparing meals at home, preparing meals with vegetables) and meal regularity (i.e. routine consumption of evening meals and breakfast). In contrast, factors most strongly associated with poor dietary patterns included eating on the run, using media while eating and purchasing foods/beverages on campus. A Protective Factors Index, summing selected protective meal routines and practices, was positively associated with fruit/vegetable consumption and negatively associated with fast-food and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption (P<0·001). A Risky Factors Index yielded significant, positive associations with fast-food and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption (P<0·001). The probability test for the association between the Risky Factors Index and fruit/vegetable intake was P=0·05. Meal routines and practices were significantly associated with young adults' dietary patterns, suggesting that ways in which individuals structure mealtimes and contextual characteristics of eating likely influence food choice. Thus, in addition to considering specific food choices, it also may be important to consider the context of mealtimes in developing dietary messaging and guidelines.
    Public Health Nutrition 12/2014; DOI:10.1017/S1368980014002717 · 2.48 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Objectives. We assessed disparities in weight and weight-related behaviors among college students by sexual orientation and gender. Methods. We performed cross-sectional analyses of pooled annual data (2007-2011; n = 33 907) from students participating in a Minnesota state-based survey of 40 two- and four-year colleges and universities. Sexual orientation included heterosexual, gay or lesbian, bisexual, unsure, and discordant heterosexual (heterosexuals engaging in same-sex sexual experiences). Dependent variables included weight status (derived from self-reported weight and height), diet (fruits, vegetables, soda, fast food, restaurant meals, breakfast), physical activity, screen time, unhealthy weight control, and body satisfaction. Results. Bisexual and lesbian women were more likely to be obese than heterosexual and discordant heterosexual women. Bisexual women were at high risk for unhealthy weight, diet, physical activity, and weight control behaviors. Gay and bisexual men exhibited poor activity patterns, though gay men consumed significantly less regular soda (and significantly more diet soda) than heterosexual men. Conclusions. We observed disparities in weight-, diet-, and physical activity-related factors across sexual orientation among college youths. Additional research is needed to better understand these disparities and the most appropriate intervention strategies to address them. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print November 13, 2014: e1-e11. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2014.302094).
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    ABSTRACT: Little is known about the complex patterning of weight-related health behaviors in 2- and 4-year college students. The objective of this study was to identify and describe unique classes of weight-related health behaviors among college students. Latent class analysis was used to identify homogenous, mutually exclusive classes of nine health behaviors that represent multiple theoretically/clinically relevant dimensions of obesity risk among 2- versus 4-year college students using cross-sectional statewide surveillance data (N = 17,584). Additionally, differences in class membership on selected sociodemographic characteristics were examined using a model-based approach. Analysis was conducted separately for both college groups, and five and four classes were identified for 2- and 4-year college students, respectively. Four classes were similar across 2- and 4-year college groups and were characterized as "mostly healthy dietary habits, active"; "moderately high screen time, active"; "moderately healthy dietary habits, inactive"; and "moderately high screen time, inactive." "Moderately healthy dietary habits, high screen time" was the additional class unique to 2-year college students. These classes differed on a number of sociodemographic characteristics, including the proportion in each class who were classified as obese. Implications for prevention scientists and future intervention programs are considered.
    Health Education &amp Behavior 07/2014; 41(6). DOI:10.1177/1090198114537062 · 1.54 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Objective Cooking programs are growing in popularity; however, an extensive review has not examined their overall impact. Therefore, this study reviewed previous research on cooking/home food preparation interventions and diet and health-related outcomes among adults and identified implications for practice and research. Design Literature review and descriptive summative method. Main Outcome Measures Dietary intake, knowledge/skills, cooking attitudes and self-efficacy/confidence, health outcomes. Analysis Articles evaluating the effectiveness of interventions that included cooking/home food preparation as the primary aim (January, 1980 through December, 2011) were identified via Ovid MEDLINE, Agricola, and Web of Science databases. Studies grouped according to design and outcomes were reviewed for validity using an established coding system. Results were summarized for several outcome categories. Results Of 28 studies identified, 12 included a control group with 6 as nonrandomized and 6 as randomized controlled trials. Evaluation was done postintervention for 5 studies, pre- and postintervention for 23, and beyond postintervention for 15. Qualitative and quantitative measures suggested a positive influence on main outcomes. However, nonrigorous study designs, varying study populations, and the use of nonvalidated assessment tools limited stronger conclusions. Conclusions and Implications Well-designed studies are needed that rigorously evaluate long-term impact on cooking behavior, dietary intake, obesity and other health outcomes.
    07/2014; 46(4). DOI:10.1016/j.jneb.2014.02.001
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    ABSTRACT: Young adults are at risk for weight gain in the transition to independent adulthood; 2-year college students are at greater risk and understudied relative to 4-year students. This project conducted formative research for a randomized controlled weight gain prevention trial among 2-year college students, to ensure appropriateness of content and delivery of a curriculum originally developed for 4-year college students. Data were collected from community college students, faculty, and staff from October 2009 to August 2011. Work included focus groups and key informant interviews, curriculum pilot testing, and social network and support website beta testing. Based on focus groups and interviews, program content, course delivery modes, and communication channels were adjusted to meet population interests and preferences. The course was delivered successfully in pilot testing, and the website was received well by beta testers. Formative work successfully guided program adaptations to address population needs.
    06/2014; 4(2):160-9. DOI:10.1007/s13142-013-0243-y
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    ABSTRACT: Objectives. We examined trends from 1999 to 2010 in adolescents' self-reported fast-food restaurant use alongside maternal reports of fast-food consumption and purchasing from restaurants for family meals. Methods. Middle- and high-school student participants from Minneapolis-St Paul, Minnesota, represented diverse ethnic/racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. Adolescents completed classroom-administered surveys and maternal caregivers responded by phone or mail. Results. The overall prevalence of frequent fast-food consumption, defined as 3 or more times per week, decreased from 1999 to 2010 among adolescents (1999: 25%; 2010: 19%; P < .001) and maternal caregivers (1999: 17%; 2010: 11%; P < .001), but sociodemographic disparities were apparent. For example, the prevalence of frequent fast-food consumption remained highest and did not significantly decrease among Black or Native American youths. The overall prevalence of frequent fast-food purchases for family meals did not significantly decrease; large decreases were observed only among Hispanic families (1999: 18%; 2010: 6%; P < .001). Conclusions. In light of previous findings linking frequent fast-food consumption to greater weight gain and poor nutrition, the observed decreases in consumption are encouraging and interventions are needed to address observed disparities. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print March 13, 2014: e1-e8. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301805).
    American Journal of Public Health 03/2014; 104(5). DOI:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301805 · 4.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Young adults are at risk for weight gain. Little is known about how to design weight control programs to meet the needs of young adults and few theory-based interventions have been evaluated in a randomized control trial. The Choosing Healthy Options in College Environments and Settings (CHOICES) study was funded to create a technology-based program for 2-year community college students to help prevent unhealthy weight gain. The purpose of this paper is to: 1) provide a brief background on weight-related interventions in young adults; 2) describe the study design for the CHOICES study, the conceptual model guiding the research and the CHOICES intervention; and 3) discuss implications of this research for health educators.
    03/2014; 45(2):67-75. DOI:10.1080/19325037.2013.875962
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    ABSTRACT: To document implementation challenges and opportunities associated with small store interventions. Case study analysis of small store interventions conducted in 4 regions of the US. We systematically generated matrices to compare and contrast lessons learned to advance implementation science. Seven thematic areas were identified including: establishing relationships with stores, store owner and customer relationships, selection of intervention approaches, stocking healthier foods, evaluation, maintenance of changes, and dissemination. This information provides guidance to researchers and practitioners wishing to design, implement, and evaluate small store interventions.
    American journal of health behavior 03/2014; 38(2):307-15. DOI:10.5993/AJHB.38.2.16 · 1.31 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Objective: The objective of this study was to explore disparities in weight and weight-related behaviors by transgender identity. Methods: Cross-sectional regression models were fit using 2007-2011 College Student Health Survey data. Results: Compared to their non-transgender counterparts, transgender students (N = 53) were more likely to be either underweight [adjusted relative risk (95% CI): 4.78 (1.61-14.18)] or obese [2.45 (1.21-4.93)], and less likely to meet recommendations for strenuous physical activity [1.16 (1.01-1.34)], strengthening physical activity [1.32 (1.11-1.56)], and screen time [1.20 (1.02-1.41)]. Conclusions: More research is needed to understand the unique social contexts of transgender college students with regard to weight status, physical activity, and screen time to inform intervention and policy development and implementation.
    03/2014; 1(2). DOI:10.14485/HBPR.1.2.8
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    ABSTRACT: To examine associations between young adults' dietary behaviors and perceived social norms for healthy eating. Cross-sectional survey of 1000 diverse college students. Associations between perceived behaviors of family, friends, and significant other and participants' dietary behaviors were examined using t-tests and linear regression. Young adults consumed more fast food if they perceived that their family, friends, or significant other did so (p < .003). Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption was associated with perceived consumption by family and friends (p < .035). Fruit and vegetable consumption and dinner preparation were associated with perceived behavior of friends only (p < .001). Young adults' dietary behaviors appear to reflect their perceptions of normative behavior, particularly among friends.
    American journal of health behavior 01/2014; 38(1):144-52. DOI:10.5993/AJHB.38.1.15 · 1.31 Impact Factor
  • Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 09/2013; 113(9):A94. DOI:10.1016/j.jand.2013.06.334 · 2.44 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Most young adults do not consume recommended levels of fruits and vegetables (F/V), and interventions to increase F/V-related behaviors among this understudied population are needed. Therefore, it is important to identify correlates of F/V intake among young adults to guide intervention development. This cross-sectional study used data from an online survey to identify factors related to young adults' F/V purchasing, preparation, and consumption, and to explore between-factor relationships using mediation analysis. In 2010, 1,201 college students in Minnesota completed questionnaires assessing F/V behaviors as well as perceptions of F/V-related individual, social, and environmental factors. Factor analysis identified questionnaire items assessing similar constructs. Seven factors were identified (personal barriers, F/V knowledge, family, friends, neighborhood, access barriers, and campus) and evaluated for relationships with F/V purchasing, preparation, and consumption using linear regression. Results revealed that perceived personal barriers (eg, lacking cooking skills) were inversely related to all F/V outcomes. Perception that family and friends eat healthfully and neighborhood access to F/V were positively related to all outcomes. Individual-, social-, and environment-level perceptions were related to purchasing, preparation, and consumption, and the effects of these factors were similar when accounting for mediated effects. Factors at all three levels and the ways in which these various factors operate together may be important to consider in future efforts to improve F/V behaviors among young adults.
    Journal of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 08/2013; DOI:10.1016/j.jand.2013.06.348 · 2.44 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Obesity prevalence in the rural United States is higher than in urban or suburban areas, perhaps as a result of the food environment. Because rural residents live farther from supermarkets than their urban- and suburban-dwelling counterparts, they may be more reliant on smaller corner stores that offer fewer healthful food items. As part of a Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) healthy corner store initiative, we reviewed audit tools in the fall of 2010 to measure the consumer food environment in eastern North Carolina and chose the NEMS-S-Rev (Nutrition Environment Measures Survey-Stores-Revised) to assess 42 food stores. During the spring and summer of 2011, 2 trained graduate assistants audited stores, achieving interrater reliability of at least 80%. NEMS-S-Rev scores of stores in rural versus urban areas were compared. Overall, healthful foods were less available and of lower quality in rural areas than in urban areas. NEMS-S-Rev scores indicated that healthful foods were more likely to be available and had similar pricing and quality in rural corner stores than in urban corner stores. Food store audit data provided a baseline to implement and evaluate a CPPW healthy corner store initiative in Pitt County. This work serves as a case study, providing lessons learned for engaging community partners when conducting rural food store audits.
    Preventing chronic disease 07/2013; 10:E121. DOI:10.5888/pcd10.120318 · 1.96 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We examined trends in cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana use by eventual educational attainment in 1,902 participants from Project EAT, a 10-year longitudinal study following participants from early adolescence through young adulthood. Generally, for cigarettes and marijuana, disparities were evident by early adolescence with prevalence of use highest among those who had no secondary education. With alcohol, use diverged during young adulthood when the college group reported the most weekly alcohol use while those without postsecondary education reported greatest daily use. When disparities in substance use behaviors first emerge and later escalate can guide how to craft and target interventions.
    Substance Use &amp Misuse 07/2013; 48(14). DOI:10.3109/10826084.2013.800885 · 1.23 Impact Factor
  • Jennifer E Pelletier, Melissa N Laska
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    ABSTRACT: Abstract Purpose . To examine the association between college students' dietary patterns and frequency of purchasing food/beverages from campus area venues, purchasing fast food, and bringing food from home. Design . Cross-sectional Student Health and Wellness Study. Setting . One community college and one public university in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. Subjects . Diverse college students living off campus (n = 1059; 59% nonwhite; mean [SD] age, 22 [5] years). Measures . Participants self-reported sociodemographic characteristics and frequency of purchasing food/beverages around campus, purchasing fast food, and bringing food from home. Campus area purchases included à la carte facilities, vending machines, beverages, and nearby restaurants/stores. Dietary outcomes included breakfast and evening meal consumption (d/wk) and summary variables of fruit and vegetable, dairy, calcium, fiber, added sugar, and fat intake calculated from food frequency screeners. Analysis . The associations between each purchasing behavior and dietary outcomes were examined using t-tests and linear regression. Results . Approximately 45% of students purchased food/beverages from at least one campus area venue ≥3 times per week. Frequent food/beverage purchasing around campus was associated with less frequent breakfast consumption and higher fat and added sugar intake, similar to fast-food purchasing. Bringing food from home was associated with healthier dietary patterns. Conclusion . Increasing the healthfulness of campus food environments and promoting healthy food and beverage purchasing around campuses may be an important target for nutrition promotion among college students.
    American journal of health promotion: AJHP 04/2013; 28(2). DOI:10.4278/ajhp.120705-QUAN-326 · 2.37 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

746 Citations
158.80 Total Impact Points


  • 2010–2015
    • University of Minnesota Duluth
      • Department of Family Medicine and Community Health
      Duluth, Minnesota, United States
    • South Dakota State University
      Brookings, South Dakota, United States
  • 2014
    • Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
      Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
  • 2012
    • University of South Carolina
      • Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics
      Columbia, SC, United States