Tuesday, September 1, 2009

College classes are starting and another cohort of students is arriving on campus. Some of them will pack on the so-called "freshman 15"—the extra pounds gained during college that can last a lifetime.

It’s been assumed this rapid weight gain is related to sitting in the all-you-can-eat cafeteria on campus having long philosophical conversations. Research from the University of Minnesota, School of Public Health indicates that heavy drinking is associated with weight gain during college years in complex ways.

Among 3206 Minnesota college students, binge drinking was associated with a 7 to 32% increase in a wide variety of unhealthy eating behaviors--infrequent breakfast consumption, eating few fruit and vegetables, high fast food consumption, unhealthy weight control behaviors, and some sedentary behavior. These associations held throughout the college years. 

The study authors wonder if health messages are inadvertently competing with each other. Perhaps healthy eating messages do not fully account for ways a campus drinking context influences eating and, on the flip side, that the adage to never drink on an empty stomach may subtly contribute to weight gain. Now that’s food (and drink) for thought.

Susan Maloney
Managing Senior Fellow
& Senior Program Officer


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