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'Freshman Fifteen' is a myth, but weight gain is still a problem

A common, but often undocumented, truism among college students is that they are likely to gain 15 pounds during their freshman year. But now a new study at Rutgers' Cook College has found that the "Freshman Fifteen" phenomenon is exaggerated.

The study focused on a sample of 67 students who had volunteered to be weighed during a health assessment in the university dining halls in the fall, and underwent a second set of measurements in the spring. The average weight gain was seven pounds, the result of eating approximately 112 excess calories per day.

"We found that the first year of college is a period in which weight and fat gain may occur," said Daniel Hoffman, one of the professors from the Rutgers' Cook College Department of Nutritional Sciences on the study team. "But, in the group we studied, the weight gain is less than 15 pounds and is not universal."

However, three-quarters of the students who participated in the study did gain weight.

"This suggests that the freshman year may be an environment where eating more food than the body needs is the predominant state for a significant number of students," said Peggy Policastro, co-author on the paper and a nutritionist in the Department of Nutritional Sciences. "This may be associated with a decreased physical activity level, prompted by no longer participating in organized sports, having less leisure time than while in high school, or making less of an effort to stay active. In addition, significant dietary changes are occurring which may include an increased energy intake due to eating at buffet-style dining halls or increased alcohol intake, although we did not measure these factors in our study."

Hoffman added, "The fact that a relatively small change in the calories consumed compared to energy expended could result in a significant gain of fat underscores the importance for eating a balanced diet and engaging in moderate exercise on a regular basis. In theory, if th
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Contact: Michele Hujber
hujber@aesop.rutgers.edu
732-932-7000 x4204
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
6-Feb-2006


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