College Students Gain Weight!

By Dr. Robert Wallace

February 25, 2019 6 min read

TEENS: Are you planning on attending college soon? Are you also concerned about gaining extra pounds? Then you'd better be extra cautious, starting the first day you set foot on your college campus. For new college students — who are often under pressure to do well to impress parents, friends and potential future employers — the temptation to overeat and to eat fattening foods is a powerful force indeed.

Two studies on this subject, directed by Brown University's medical school and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, respectively, have measured the extra weight the average college student gains in the first two years of his or her higher education.

In the Brown study, funded by the federal government, 382 students in an unidentified private college in the Northeast were weighed four times during their freshman year — from the beginning of the school year in September and to the end of the school year in May. It was found that male students gained an average of 5.6 pounds, while female students gained 3.6 pounds. Some students even gained 15 or more pounds. At the beginning of the school year, 14 percent of the freshmen were considered overweight; after end-of-year final exams, more than 17 percent of them were overweight.

The Robert Wood Johnson study involved 907 students at an unidentified university in the Midwest. The students were weighed four times during their freshman school year. The average weight gain was similar that found in the Brown study.

However, the Robert Wood Johnson study also weighed the 907 students at the end of their sophomore year. The study found that the males were an average of 9.5 pounds heavier and the females an average of 9.2 pounds heavier than they had been at the beginning of their freshman year. As males tend to have a larger body build than females, the weight gain for females was more significant on a percentage basis than the weight gain for the males.

No one is certain why the college students gained these additional pounds during their first two years of higher education, but according to Elizabeth Lloyd-Richardson, who led both studies, researchers are continuing to try to find the answer.

Possible explanations include eating more junk snacks, especially during study times; the drinking of alcohol, which is high in calories; and consuming dorm foods that have high fat content. More studying and less physical activity are also possible factors. So, young college students-to-be, consider yourself warned. If you don't wish to gain weight when you go off to college, do your best to eat healthy foods and avoid high-calorie beverages. You'll benefit both in terms of your health and your ability to "stick to your studies."


DR. WALLACE: Please end this friendly disagreement. What language do most people on Earth speak? I say it's Spanish, and my boyfriend says it's English. I win a free dinner if I'm correct! — Hungry Girlfriend, via email

HUNGRY: Your question is an interesting one and has a couple of answers. In my opinion, it's technically a tie between you and your boyfriend, as you did not specify native or nonnative languages. I'll give you both answers.

Mandarin Chinese is the most common native language. There are roughly 1 billion native Mandarin speakers! Second in the native speaker category is Spanish. English checks in third, and Hindi is fourth. However, there are many people who speak more than one language! Some people are fluent or at least proficient in two, three or even four languages. By this standard, English slightly edges out Mandarin as the No. 1 spoken language on Earth. Third is Hindi. Fourth is Spanish. French is fifth, and Arabic is sixth.

According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, Spanish is the most popular foreign language taken by American middle and high school students, followed by French and German. French is an important language for North Americans; it's the official language of our Canadian neighbors in the province of Quebec, and over 8 million Quebecois speak it. Spanish is also a very important language on this continent, as our Mexican neighbors to the south speak Spanish. With English, Spanish and French, three of the top six languages spoken on Earth are here in North America!

It would be wonderful if you could be fluent in both French and Spanish, but if it has to be one or the other, I think Spanish could be more valuable for future employment opportunities. There are a lot of wonderful languages spoken on our planet. Choose a second language you're interested in and strive to learn it. You will enjoy the benefits this brings both personally and professionally. Hungry, your boyfriend is technically the winner here, as his answer fit one of the categories. But perhaps you can use your language skills to convince him to allow the two of you to "go Dutch" with your next dinner out together!

Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: at Pixabay

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