Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from Nutrition Journal and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges 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

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

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

Published: 22 July 2009



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


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.


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.


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.