Is the Freshman 15 a Myth?

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Is the notion of the “Freshman 15” weight gain a myth? A new study from the Ohio State University’s Center for Human Resource Research found that most students do not in fact gain 15 pounds in their first year of college, and on the contrary, almost a quarter of students actually report losing weight during their freshman year. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, the research team evaluated the weight gain of more than 7000 diverse teens as they developed into young adults. The teens were first evaluated in 1997 between 13 and 17 years of age and were interviewed each year following. Several factors that have been theorized as contributing to freshman weight gain were considered, such as living in a dormitory, full or part-time student status, pursuit of a two-year or four-year degree and alcohol consumption.

The findings indicated that men typically gain 3.4 pounds in their first year of college and women gain an average of 2.4 pounds. Only 10 percent of college freshmen put on 15 pounds, so the vast majority did not experience the “Freshman 15.” The data also showed that compared to same-age peers that did not attend college, the typical freshman gains only a half-pound more. The researchers found that instead of a spike in weight during the freshman year, college students experienced moderate but steady weight gain during and after college, with women putting on an average of seven to nine pounds, over the course of their studies and men on average 12 to 13 pounds. The study authors concluded that while we do gain weight as we get older, it is not the college environment in itself that leads to weight gain – it is becoming a young adult.

While it is typical to gain weight as we age, it is important to maintain a healthy body weight. Millions of people worldwide are overweight or obese. Being obese puts you at risk for several diseases and conditions, such as high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. Learn more here about obesity and treatments such as weight loss surgery.

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