Patricia Smith

First-year students concerned about the infamous “freshman 15” can rest a little easier, according to a study by Ohio State University.

The 7,418 young people in the study showed an average weight increase of 3.1 pounds in women and 3.5 pounds in men during their freshman year of college or age associated with the freshman year, said human resource researcher Jay Zagorsky. The study began in 1997 when participants were ages 14-17, Zagorsky said. Their weight was recorded every year, and about the same amount was gained by those who did not attend college as those who did. Zagorsky said this proves it is not college which causes the weight gain, but growing older.

“There are a lot of things to worry about when you go to college,” Zagorsky said. “However, gaining 15 pounds your freshman year is not one of them.”

The study also shows freshman year is not the only time students can gain weight, said University of Michigan-Dearborn economics professor Patricia Smith, who worked with Zagorsky on the study. Rather than weight suddenly increasing during the first year of college, as many believe, a steady amount is gained every year, eventually adding up to about 10 pounds by the time of graduation, she said. Smith said the type of institution also makes a difference in amount of weight gained.

“Students in two-year schools gained about one pound more than those in four-year schools,” Smith said.

The number one factor leading to more weight gain than the average three pounds is heavy drinking, which Zagorsky defines as six drinks or more drinks, four times a month.

“If you are really worried about not gaining weight, don’t drink heavily,” he said.

Zagorsky said the second factor in weight gain is working a job. This is because workers have more income and can afford to buy more food and drink, he said.

UT civil engineering freshman Joshua Wilson said he has not experienced any weight gain during his first semester because of the active atmosphere of the campus.

“I haven’t gained any weight probably because I have to walk to all my classes and I live right by Gregory Gym,” he said. “The Austin culture is geared toward biking and walking everywhere, so it’s easy to stay active.”

Printed on Thursday, November 3, 2011 as: Freshmen pack on pounds because of age, not college