Recent evidence suggests that more than half of the adult population in the U.S. is overweight or obese, with the percentages increasing significantly over the last 15 years (1). The number of children who are overweight or obese is also increasing at an alarming rate, with more than 17% of children in the U.S. being overweight or obese, and even higher percentages among African American and Hispanic children (1). Results from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey suggest that the greatest increases in obesity occur in individuals between the ages of 18 to 29 years, during the transition from adolescence to adulthood when many attend college (2). Physical inactivity, poor dietary choices, increased caloric intake, increased stress and disturbed sleep patterns, in addition to many other factors, contribute to the increased weight gain and obesity in college-aged young adults (3,4,5,6). In many cases, increased body weight contributes to the development of the metabolic syndrome in adolescents and young adults, including impaired glucose tolerance, insulin resistance, hyperlipidemia, elevated blood pressure, and increased abdominal fat (7,8,9,10,11). Reducing the amount of weight gained during adolescence and young adulthood by increasing physical activity and improving dietary choices may help to reduce the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in adulthood.
The purpose of this review is to critically analyze the current evidence on the prevalence and risk of obesity as well as physical activity and dietary behaviors in the college student population. In addition, the review will address the issues in the development of successful nutritional and physical activity interventions designed to reduce the risk of obesity and increase physical activity in this population.
THE HIGH SCHOOL TO COLLEGE TRANSITION: THE “FRESHMAN FIFTEEN”
The transition from high school to college is one critical period in life where the risk of weight gain is...