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College students may have more in common with their parents than they think - including high blood pressure, raised cholesterol, inactivity and excess weight.

Although some appear to be the picture of youthful good health, many undergraduates are suffering from conditions that could lead to chronic health problems later in life, according to research by scientists at the University of New Hampshire.

"They are not as healthy as they think they are," said researcher Ingrid Lofgren, who collected and analyzed the data presented at the Experimental Biology Annual Meeting.

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At least one-third of the 800 students, aged 18 to 24, questioned in a study were overweight or obese, 60 per cent of the men had high blood pressure and more than two-thirds of the women were lacking in iron, calcium and folate.

Dr. Lofgren and her team asked the students to answer questionnaires about their eating habits, how much they exercise and whether they smoke and drink.

The students were also weighed and screened for high blood pressure and cholesterol, and the nutritional content of their diets was analyzed.

Sixty-six per cent of men in the study and 50 per cent of women had at least one risk factor for metabolic syndrome - a cluster of conditions such as high blood pressure, raised cholesterol and excess weight that increases the odds of suffering from cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

But the results of the study were not all bad, the researchers added.

Very few of the students who took part in the study were smokers, and the number who were overweight or obese was less than the U.S. national average, which is close to 40 per cent, the researchers said.

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