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New research debunks myths on college weight gain

November 1, 2011

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(Relaxnews) - Thanks to all-you-can-eat dining hall meals, alcohol binge parties, and junk food-laden study sessions, weight gain is pretty much a reality for almost every college student. But a new study reveals that it isn't college that is making you fat; it's becoming a young adult that is.

Announced Monday, a new study from Ohio State University's Center for Human Resource Research finds that the average student gains between about 2.5 and 3.5 pounds during the first year of college, about a half-pound more than a same-age person who didn't go to college.

The study -- which used data from 7,418 young Americans who participated in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 -- also found that women gained an average of 2.4 pounds (about one kilo) during their freshman year, while men gained an average of 3.4 pounds (about 1.5 kilos). No more than 10 percent of college freshman gained 15 pounds (6.8 kilos) or more -- and a quarter of freshman reported actually losing weight during their first year.

Yet, college students did continue to gain weight steadily while in school, with women gaining between seven and nine pounds (3.17-4 kilos), and men gaining between 12 and 13 pounds (5.4-5.9 kilos). But the researchers noted that dorm living was not in fact to blame, debunking the myth that unlimited buffets and lack of parental supervision resulted in weight gain.

"The ‘freshman 15' is a media myth," said Jay Zagorsky, co-author of the study, of a common catchphrase in the US regarding weight gain in your first year of college. "Most students don't gain large amounts of weight. And it is not college that leads to weight gain -- it is becoming a young adult."

Most young adults show a moderate but steady weight gain throughout early adulthood, he adds. "Anyone who gains 1.5 pounds every year will become obese over time, no matter their initial weight."

Students stand a much better chance at maintaining a healthy weight throughout their lives if they develop healthy habits now, he stated.

To avoid weight gain and unhealthy eating, The Everything Healthy College Cookbook -- written by a registered dietician -- offers 300 quick, easy and calorie-conscious recipes to help students stay on track.

Cooking Light magazine also offers students tips on how to avoid packing on the pounds and meeting their nutritional requirements in their online piece, "Avoiding the Freshman 15."

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