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Open Access Highly Accessed Research

Change in diet, physical activity, and body weight among young-adults during the transition from high school to college

Heidi J Wengreen* and Cara Moncur

Author Affiliations

Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA

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Nutrition Journal 2009, 8:32  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-8-32

Published: 22 July 2009

Abstract

Background

The freshmen year of college is likely a critical period for risk of weight gain among young-adults.

Methods

A longitudinal observational study was conducted to examine changes in weight, dietary intake, and other health-related behaviors among first-year college students (n = 186) attending a public University in the western United States. Weight was measured at the beginning and end of fall semester (August – December 2005). Participants completed surveys about dietary intake, physical activity and other health-related behaviors during the last six months of high school (January – June 2005) in August 2005 and during their first semester of college (August – December 2005) in December 2005.

Results

159 students (n = 102 women, 57 men) completed both assessments. The average BMI at the baseline assessment was 23.0 (standard deviation (SD) 3.8). Although the average amount of weight gained during the 15-week study was modest (1.5 kg), 23% of participants gained ≥ 5% of their baseline body weight. Average weight gain among those who gained ≥ 5% of baseline body weight was 4.5 kg. Those who gained ≥ 5% of body weight reported less physical activity during college than high school, were more likely to eat breakfast, and slept more than were those who did not gain ≥ 5% of body weight.

Conclusion

Almost one quarter of students gained a significant amount of weight during their first semester of college. This research provides further support for the implementation of education or other strategies aimed at helping young-adults entering college to achieve or maintain a healthy body weight.