Study: Freshman 15 More Like the Freshman 3

A study into the truth of the “Freshman 15” belief that says freshmen put on 15 pounds at college, conducted by researchers from Ohio State University and the University of Michigan at Dearborn, has debunked it, saying the number is closer to just three pounds, writes Valerie Strauss at the Washington Post.

The “Freshman 15” turns out to be a media myth, the study concludes, one that is powerful enough to be cited commonly as truth.

The study says, women gain an average of 2.4 pounds during their freshman year and men 3.4 pounds.

The study was co-authored by Jay Zagorsky, research scientist at Ohio State University’s Center for Human Resource Research, and Patricia Smith, a professor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

“The summer after my senior year of high school, I was terrified. Not of leaving home, or of living on my own, or even of trying to make friends in college. I was petrified that I was going to get fat,” writes Hanna Brooks Olsen at Bliss Tree.

“Looking back, it’s truly amazing how afraid I was by the persistent rumors of the dreaded “freshman 15.”

The researchers looked at weight data from 7,418 young people over a period of years, using information from a longitudinal survey of youth commissioned by the Labor Department and conducted by the center.

Dispelling myths like these are invaluable for many students worried about their weight. College can be a breeding ground for eating disorders which scares a lot of women (and men) into being hyper-vigilant, to the point of obsession, about what they eat, writes Olsen.

The researchers learned that throughout a college career, female students gain on average seven to nine pounds and male students 12 to 13 pounds. No more than 10 percent of college freshman gained 15 pounds or more, the study said.

The researchers looked at various factors that could be connected with weight gain, including whether students lived on or off campus, attended class full-or part-time, and enrolled in public or private colleges, according to an Ohio State release about the study, writes Strauss.

The most significant thing that seemed to affect weight was the heavy consuming of alcohol. They defined “heavy consuming” as consuming six or more drinks on at least four days a month.

“Dispelling the “freshman 15″ myth is a good first step in curbing disordered eating behaviors before they start, by removing the fear of weight gain that seems, to many (myself included), to be an absolute certainty,” writes Olsen.