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

that study, only 5 percent of participants reported gaining 15 pounds.

Some previous research had indicated that 15 pounds may have grossly overstated the weight gained during freshman year.

In this study, about three-quarters of the 26 females and 10 males gained weight during their first year of college, ranging from a loss of 5.8 pounds to an increase of 13 pounds. Twenty-one percent gained five pounds or more.

The mean initial weight of females was 124.9 pounds, which increased to 126.9 pounds after the first semester; mean BMI rose from 21 to 21.4.

Why the overall gain?

Gropper and her colleagues are in the process of investigating the reasons in a larger sample of students but have some ideas.

"We're speculating it's a variety of factors," she said. "For some kids, it's decreases in physical activity, and it may have to do with all-you-can-eat dining halls. Some kids say 'I can go there six times a day and eat for free.' A lot of kids are also eating out tremendously and eating junk food after 10 [p.m.]."

"When you put someone on a cafeteria diet, three times a day, seven days a week, it's like being on a cruise. You have unlimited food, and it's very difficult to moderate," Spark added. "When we give rats Purina rat chow, which is very boring, they eat as much as they need, and they stop. But if you give the same rats frosted flakes and fatty foods, stuff that's really tasty, they get very heavy just like we do. We do have an animal model for this. It's worth reminding people that all-you-can-eat is very challenging for us, and sometimes, it's regarded as an obesogenic environment."

And answers to the questionnaire participants were asked to fill out also shed some light on the subject. When told what one serving equaled in baked goods, snack foods and sugar-sweetened beverages, some of the students responded, "Oh, my gosh!"

"They have this realization," Gropper said. <
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