Controlling the ‘Freshman 15’ through diet, nutrition and health education

Controlling the ‘Freshman 15’ through diet, nutrition and health education

Transitioning to college is a critical period for young people. The first years of college life are often associated with significant weight gain. The term ‘Freshman 15’ has been used as a reference to the 15 pounds (~7 kilograms) accumulated during the first year of college, although the average increase in weight the first semester in college has actually been 3.5 to 7.8 pounds (1.53.5 kg).

Louisiana youth are among the unhealthiest in the nation; 36% of 10- to 17-year-olds are overweight and 53% don’t exercise regularly. And 40.5% of African Americans in the state are classified as overweight or obese.

The Nutrition and Health Program at the Louisiana State University AgCenter received a grant to conduct research with first-year students. The goal was to determine if consuming whey protein/resistant starch bars for breakfast could lead to a reduction in body fat. Nutrition education and physical activities were incorporated into the study.

Thirty-one African American first-year students were recruited to participate in the study. They were weighed before and after the study, which was conducted in two semesters (one fall and one spring semester) for 15 weeks each semester. Half of the semester they received the breakfast bar (seven weeks), then one week of wash out, and the other seven weeks no bar. Information and findings from the project were shared with scientific and Extension communities.

Some participants in the study recorded weight loss up to 17 pounds. There were 15 participants who didn’t lose weight but didn’t gain weight. Participants lost as much as 10% of their body weight on average. Participants reported that by eating breakfast (the bar), paying close attention to what and how much they ate in family settings and being physically active, they lost weight, felt better and were performing better at school.