"Freshman 15" a myth? What college student study shows

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(CBS) Is the "freshman 15" a myth? Maybe so.

A new Ohio State study shows that the average student gains only 2.5 to 3.5 pounds during the first year of college.

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"The 'freshman 15' is a media myth," study co-author Jay Zagorsky, a research scientist at Ohio State University's Center for Human Resource Research, said in a written statement. "Most students don't gain large amounts of weight. And it is not college that leads to weight gain - it is becoming a young adult."

For the study - slated to appear in the Dec. issue of Social Science Quarterly - researchers looked at weight data from more than 7,400 college students. The researchers found that 10 percent of college freshman actually gained the dreaded 15 - while nearly 25 percent actually lost weight their freshman year.

The researchers considered several factors that might influence weight, including whether students lived in a dorm, went to school full-time, went to a public or private school, or drank a lot. Heavy drinking was the only factor associated with weight gain - but big boozers only gained less than a pound more than their counterparts, the study showed.

"There has been concern that access to all-you-can-eat cafeterias and abundant fast food choices, with no parental oversight, may lead to weight gain, but that doesn't seem to hold true for most students," Zagorsky said.

The results confirmed that students did gain weight throughout college. The typical female gained between seven to nine pounds throughout college, while males gained 12 pounds. The study showed weight gain continued after students earned their diplomas to the tune of a pound-and-a-half per year, a potentially troubling finding.

"Anyone who gains 1.5 pounds every year will become obese over time, no matter their initial weight," Zagorsky said in the statement.

The bottom line for college students?

Zagorsky, told MSNBC, "There are lots of things to worry about in college, but if you're the average person, gaining weight is not one of them."

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