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Change in Weight and Adiposity in College Students

A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
Published:September 15, 2014DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2014.07.035

      Context

      The purpose of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to assess changes in body weight and relative adiposity (%FAT) during college and identify potential moderating variables.

      Evidence acquisition

      A review of peer-reviewed articles published before June 28, 2013 identified 49 studies evaluating the effect of the first year of college on the dependent variables of body weight (137 effects from 48 studies) and %FAT (48 effects from 19 studies). Statistical analysis was conducted between July 1, 2013, and May 1, 2014. Effect sizes were calculated by subtracting the mean pre-test measurements from the mean post-test measurements.

      Evidence synthesis

      Participants’ weight increased 1.55 kg (95% CI=1.3, 1.8 kg) during college, with a 1.17% increase in %FAT (95% CI=0.7, 1.6%). Meta-regression analysis concluded that changes in body weight and %FAT were positively associated with study duration, suggesting that effects measuring change over a longer duration yielded larger effects when compared to effects with shorter observations. Sex and baseline BMI were not associated with change in weight or %FAT after accounting for study duration.

      Conclusions

      The increase in weight and %FAT during the college years is equal to 1.55 kg and 1.17%, respectively. Change in body weight during the first year of college is significantly less than that during the cumulative remaining years of college. By understanding the magnitude of change, appropriate prevention efforts can be designed for the college population, which may be beneficial in reducing adult overweight and obesity rates.
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