A multiyear study of students at Washington University in St. Louis found that the stereotypical extra poundage gained by first-year students in college—the celebrated "Freshman 15"—is a myth. If the results are confirmed at other schools and in other studies, it could mitigate a traditional criticism of college dining departments— that their "all-you-can-eat" dining halls and expanding array of retail food outlets are contributing to unhealthy weight gain.
The Washington U. survey was conducted by the institution's-School of Medicine and was led by Dr. Susan Deusinger, director of the program in physical therapy. The multiyear survey began in fall 1999 by observing 900 students, 200 of whom were freshman who were followed through their senior years in 2003. The students were periodically weighed and questioned about eating and exercise habits.
The results: males gained an average of 10 pounds in their four years while females gained less than five pounds.
Not all the news from the survey was positive. It did find that many students ate too many unhealthy foods and often failed to consume the government's recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables . About a third of students also get too little exercise.