Abstract

Objectives The transition from high school to college or university has been shown to be a critical period for weight and fat gain. To date, no European data on weight and fat gain over the full trajectory of college or university are available. Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to investigate weight and fat gain among Belgian university students from freshman through senior year of university. Methods In this prospective observational study, a total of 340 university students were measured six times, i.e. at baseline (start of the first academic year) and at the start of the second semester of the first, second, third, fourth and fifth academic year. Objective measurements included body weight, height, body mass index (BMI), fat%, fat mass, fat free mass and waist circumference. Multilevel modelling was used to assess anthropometric changes over time according to sex. Results From freshman through senior year of university, individual weight changes ranged from -5.2 to +15.7kg, and respectively 77.4% and 69.3% of students showed increases in BMI and fat%. Stronger increases in weight and BMI were found for males (5.7kg; 1.6kg/m2; both p<0.001) than females (2.2kg; 0.8kg/m2; both p<0.001) over the 4.5 year measuring period. Similarly, waist circumference increased more in males (4.7cm; p<0.001) than in females (1.0cm; p<0.001). In contrast, females (2.5%; p<0.001) showed a higher increase in fat% than males (1.0%; p = 0.019). Across sexes, the highest weight and fat gains were found during the first semester and during the final year of university. Conclusions Belgian university students gain a significant amount of body weight and body fat from freshman through senior year of university. Similar to the first semester, more pronounced increases in weight and fat were observed during the final year of university. Interventions aiming at preventing weight gain at university should not only focus on freshmen but also on senior students.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0225187
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume14
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • Changes in weight and body composition across five years at university: A prospective observational study.

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