This study aimed to determine and compare the dietary behavior and body shape perception of university students in Japan and Korea. Accordingly, we recorded the distribution of BMI among Japanese and Korean students and found a significantly low prevalence of obesity, a finding that is consistent with a study of Chinese and Japanese students (BMI ≥ 25 overweight 5.8%; BMI > 30 obese 0%) . Previous reports [9, 10] have also indicated a low prevalence of obesity in South Korean adults. As South Korea's economic growth accelerated during the past 3 decades, life style changes have included a unique nutrition transition . Although fast food has become very popular among young Koreans, the traditional dietary patterns and intake of staple foods have been maintained at a higher rate than other Asian countries. A report from the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1998) indicated that the rate of overweight (BMI ≦ 25.0 to < 30.0) and obese (BMI ≦ 30) individuals were low among Korean adults; 23.4% and 1.7% in men and 24.9% and 3.2% in women, respectively. However, high rates of diabetes, hypertension, and dyslipidemia were noted in middle-aged and elderly Koreans, even among individuals with relatively low BMI . According to The National Nutrition Survey in Japan (J-NNS), Japan also experienced dietary change from 1950 to 1970 as a result of rapid economic growth. During the past 50 years, the diet of Japanese people has changed remarkably, with the proportion of fat intake in total energy rising to more than 25% . Our results show a low prevalence of overweight and obese conditions among young female subjects in Japan and Korea; however, health issues related to these conditions certainly exist in the middle-aged and elderly generations. Thus, the importance of health promotion at the disease prevention stage can not be overstated, and similar health education programs should be implemented for university students.
The present research shows that meal patterns for the two countries were significantly different. Japanese students reported eating meals regularly and eating breakfast daily. In contrast, Korean students were significantly less likely to eat breakfast daily and ate meals less frequently. South Korea has shown a unique nutrition transition. A range of government and nutrition specialists have made efforts to retain the traditional diet in Korea. This has resulted in a high consumption of vegetables and low level of fat intake . However, few reports have been published to date regarding the food habits and nutrition knowledge of young adults. Publicity and education programs at schools should also emphasize that a healthy eating pattern parallels the beneficial effects of traditional foods.
Our results revealed that Japanese and Korean students desire body weights that are lower than their actual body weight, with Japanese students desiring thinner figures than Korean students. Similarly, previous research on young Japanese women reported that an ideal weight for their current height was an average of 5.2 kg less than current weight . Body shape perception and ideal body shape are strongly influenced by socioeconomic factors. In western society, many young females are extremely concerned with their body weight and shape. Mass media and pictures in fashion magazines have a strong impact on girls' perceptions of their weight and shape . In addition, weight concern is a predictor of the development of eating disorders of at least subsyndromal severity in young females . Therefore, it is vital that educators guide their students to understand that an ideal weight should take into account optimal physiological function. Instilling young women with this knowledge is of particular importance because excessive weight reduction adversely affects their health and reproductive systems.