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'Freshman 15' Theory Takes a Pounding
Date:4/6/2008

Research shows weight gain during first year at college far less than thought

SUNDAY, April 6 (HealthDay News) -- Looks like the infamous "Freshman 15" is more realistically the "Freshman 5."

A new study of 36 freshmen at Auburn University in Alabama found an average gain of 1.9 pounds during the first semester of the first year at college and an average gain of 4.8 pounds for the entire year. Men gained an average of 5.4 pounds, and women gained an average of 3.2 pounds.

Alabama has the third-highest rate of adult obesity in the country (29.4 percent) and the 11th-highest rate of overweight youth (16.7), according to the latest report from Trust for America's Health.

Although the students surveyed gained (or even lost) a wide variety of poundage, some of the kids who got heavier actually switched from a normal, healthy body-mass index (BMI) into the overweight category, said study author Sareen Gropper, graduate program director in the department of nutrition and food science at Auburn University, while others "graduated" from overweight to obese.

"For some, there needs to be intervention," Gropper stressed.

"It's a cautionary tale. It was such a small study, but it does open up the notion that post-adolescence kids, when they're left to their own devices, do gain weight," said Arlene Spark, director of nutrition at Hunter College in New York City.

Despite the legend surrounding the Freshman 15, there is surprisingly little scientific data on the phenomenon, stated the authors, who were expected to present their findings Sunday at the Experimental Biology 2008 meeting in San Diego. The presentation is part of the scientific program of the American Society for Nutrition.

Previous research found that college freshman had an average weight increase of 2.7 pounds over the year, with men reporting an average gain of 3.7 pounds and women reporting an average gain of 1.7 pounds. In
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