The Prevalence of the "Freshman 15" in First Year Male and Female Students
The "freshman 15" refers to the 15 lbs a student gains during the first year of college. While little, if any evidence supports 15 lbs, two-thirds of first year students gain weight to some degree.
Purpose: To determine whether weight gain occurs, whether there are differences by gender, and to identify the factors that may contribute to weight gain during the first semester of college.
Methods: Institutional Review Board approval and informed consent forms were received prior to beginning research. Students had to be 18 or 19 years of age and in the first year at a university; transfer students were not eligible. In this prospective study, baseline measurements of 43 male and 27 female first year students were conducted in September and October. Follow-up measurements for the continuing 10 male and 10 female participants were taken at the beginning of January. Participants took a survey addressing perceptions of the "freshman 15," anthropometric and body composition measurements were assessed using the QuadScan 4000, physical activity using the Paffenbarger Physical Activity Questionnaire, and diet using the Automated, Self-Administered 24-hour dietary recall. Repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to determine changes in anthropometric and body composition measurements, and patterns of physical activity. A p value of < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.
Results: Sixty-five percent of participants (6 females, 7 males) gained weight after one semester of college regardless of intent for weight change. Weight gain was non-significant for males (T1: 173.6 ± 30.9 lbs, T2: 175.2 ± 33.5 lbs) and females (T1: 133.8 ± 16.8 lbs, T2: 134.8 ± 17.3 lbs). The percentage of overweight BMIs decreased from 42% to 40% in females and increased from 41% to 50% in males. Non-significant gains for males and females in percent body fat (male 1.86%, females 2.03%), height (males T1: 70.3 ± 2.9 in, T2: 70.4 ± 3.1 in, females T1: 63.9 ± 1.7 in T2: 64.1 ± 1.6 in, percent lean muscle mass (males T1: 90.1 ± 5.1%, T2: 88.7 ± 5.3%, females T1: 77.5 ± 5.6%, T2: 75.8 ± 5.2%), and waist circumference (males T1: 32.3 ± 2.7 in, T2: 32.2 ± 2.7 in, females T1: 28.6 ± 2.5 in, T2: 28.4 ± 2.2 in). Hip circumference for males significantly increased (T1: 37.7 ± 4.1 in, T2: 40.2 ± 3.5 in) (p=.001). Physical activity did not significantly change and dietary intake could not be assessed due to incompletion of the ASA-24. Conclusion: The majority of males (70%) and females (60%) did gain weight but only 1 pound on average, not 15. Lean body mass, fat mass, waist circumference, and height did not significantly increase for males and females. Only one female classified as overweight for percent body fat (31.6%) and BMI (25), but end measurements did not vary from initial measurements. Although overweight BMIs increased for males, body fat percentages remained normal and percent muscle mass increased for 20% of participants. Average body fat percentages for males (11.3%) and females (25.5%) remained within normal ranges.
Jackie Kemnic presenting at the Minnesota Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Annual Meeting, May 1, 2016
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Research Advisor: Amy Olson, PhD, RDN, LD