If you begin University life a lean, trim youthful teen, you may end up leaving older and fatter, according to the findings of a new U.S. study.
Researchers based at the University of Vermont tracked 117 students who attended a northeastern university from 2011 until 2016.
The mean weight of all students was approximately 147 pounds as they first began college life, but by their senior year this same average had shot up to 157 pounds.
The findings of the study brought the student’s lifestyle choices into question, with barely any student consuming the daily recommended amount of fruit and vegetables, and most drinking alcohol about three times each week. If that wasn’t bad enough, only 15% actually exercised to recommended levels.
“These findings suggests that health practitioners should not limit their programming to just to that first year,” lead author Dr Lizzy Pope said, “but extend it over all four years of the college experience.”
Dr Pope worked with a team in the Nutrition and Food Sciences Department at the University of Vermont, looking at weight and body-mass-index at the beginning and end of students’ first and second semesters, and again at the end of their senior year.
Many of the students were female, 93% were white, with 23% of students being overweight or obese at the start of college. At the end of the senior year, 41% were obese or overweight. This means there was a 78% rise.
Exercise and eating habits were analysed, with just 15% managing to exercise for 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times per week.
Most students weren’t eating enough fruit and vegetables, with most of them drinking highly calorific alcoholic drinks.
There appeared to be an anomaly with all students claiming to eat much less calories than recommended. Dr Pope thinks the students must have under-reported their eating habits as the weight gain did not correspond to their claims.
Those involved in the study warn that obesity at a younger age can bring a higher risk for weight-related health problems later on life, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and cognitive issues.
Only last week an Israeli study found that obesity during adolescence may negatively affect brain function later in life – regardless of weight loss in their 20s and 30s.
The finding shatter the long-standing myth of the ’freshman 15′, a belief that first-year university students gain about 15 pounds by the summertime.
“This study and earlier ones suggest that college students are prone to weight gain that can impact their health in the present and even more significantly in the future,” said Dr Pope.
“An important element of any strategy to stem the obesity epidemic would be to target this population with behavioral interventions over all four years of their college experience.”