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Dec 13, 2016 07:00 AM EST

Bachelor’s Degree In Added Fat? Study Finds Students Gain Extra 10 Pounds Throughout College Life

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The "Freshman 15" is a commonly believed thought that once a student enters college, he will gain 15 pounds during his freshman year. A new study, however, has found that college students gain an average of 10 pounds over the course of 4 years in college -- not just in the first year.

"The myth of the 'freshman 15' has been widely debunked," Lizzy Pope, assistant professor in the Nutrition and Food Sciences Department at the University of Vermont and the study's lead author, said in a press release.

Pope's new study, published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, measured the body mass index (BMI) of more than 110 participating students at the start and end of their first and second semesters, and at the end of their senior year. What they found was "concerning."

"[O]ur study shows that there is concerning weight gain among college students that happens over all four years they are in college," Pope said.

At the start of their college years, the students had a mean weight of about 147 pounds. At the end of their senior years, the mean weight was measured at 157 pounds, a 10-pound increase from the freshman year.

This added weight, according to the study, brings about increased health risks for the students. At the start of the study, about 23 percent of the freshman college students participating were either overweight or obese. At the end of their senior years, the number rose to 41 percent. This shows a 78 percent increase.

Although the study did not find any direct connection between the student's lifestyle and weight gain, only a small percent of the sample size (15 percent) actually met the target exercise time of 30 minutes a day, five times a week.

These findings, Pope says, should cause health practitioners to expand their current plans and actions.

"These findings suggests that health practitioners should not limit their programming to just to that first year," she said, "but extend it over all four years of the college experience."

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