The common belief that college freshmen gain 15 pounds on average is wildly exaggerated, according to a new study that says the average gain is really three pounds.

The study, conducted by researchers from Ohio State University and the University of Michigan at Dearborn, further says that that one factor that has an influence on weight among freshmen is heavy alcohol consumption.

The “Freshman 15” turns out to be a media myth, the study concludes, one that is powerful enough to be cited commonly as truth. In fact, the study says, women gain an average of 2.4 pounds during their freshman year and men 3.4 pounds.

The study was co-authored by Jay Zagorsky, research scientist at Ohio State University’s Center for Human Resource Research, and Patricia Smith, a professor at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Using information from a longitudinal survey of youth commissioned by the Labor Department and conducted by the center, the researchers looked at weight data from 7,418 young people over a period of years.

The researchers learned that throughout a college career, female students gain on average seven to nine pounds and male students 12 to 13 pounds. No more than 10 percent of college freshman gained 15 pounds or more, the study said. And a quarter of freshman reported losing weight during their freshman year.

The researchers looked at various factors that could be connected with weight gain, including whether students lived on or off campus, attended class full-or part-time, and enrolled in public or private colleges, according to an Ohio State release about the study.

The only thing that seemed to significantly affect weight was heavy drinking of alcohol, which was defined as consuming six or more drinks on at least four days a month.


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