Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

January 12, 2006

"Freshman 15" a Myth, U of G Profs Find

The “Freshman 15" – a term used to describe the weight gain many university students experience in their first year – is grossly overestimated, say two University of Guelph professors.

Alison Duncan of the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences and Janis Randall Simpson of the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition studied more than 100 first-year students at the University of Guelph. They found that females gained only five pounds – not 15 – from the time they left high school, to the end of the first year of university. They also increased their body mass index, body fat and waist circumference.

“Although five pounds is not as bad as the mythical 15-pound gain, it’s still cause for concern because it represents a significant increase in body weight,” Duncan said.

The first year of university is an exciting time, filled with many challenges and obstacles to good eating, she said. For most young adults, university is the first opportunity to live alone and make many independent choices, including those related to diet and eating, and the transition can be difficult because university students are busy with classes, homework and socializing, more so than when they were in high school. Studying the transitional period gave the researchers insight into the students’ lifestyles before university and while attending.

“We didn’t find any increase in the female participants’ caloric intakes, so the weight gain was likely due to their changes in lifestyle,” said Randall Simpson. “Increased time in front of computers may have been a factor in weight gain.”

Participants were tracked from their last month in high school until the end of their first year at university, meeting three times with the researchers for updates on food choices, eating patterns and food distribution. The meetings took place in the summer of the students’ final year of high school, at the end of their fall semester at U of G and at the end of their winter semester.

The study is now being conducted with males, and the researchers are looking for males entering their first year at Guelph in September 2006 to participate. When the study is complete, Duncan and Randall Simpson hope the results will be used to help develop long-term healthy eating and lifestyle programs for students.

Prof. Alison Duncan
Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences
(519) 824-4120, Ext. 53416

Prof. Janis Randall Simpson
Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition
(519) 824-4120, Ext. 53843

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rebecca Kendall, Ext. 56982.

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