When preparing for college, health experts warn students against the inevitable weight gain of the freshmen 15. However, new research not only investigates weight gain in first-year students, but also the overall impact of weight gain during the four-year period.

"While dozens of studies have investigated weight gain during the freshman year of college and have reported on the so called "freshman 15" (the commonly held belief that students gain an average of 15 lbs their first year of college), our study is the first to examine changes in weight, body mass index, body composition, and body shape over the 4-year college period," explains Sareen Gropper, a co-author of the study and researcher at Auburn University in Alabama.

The study tracked 131 college students from their freshmen year of college to their senior year. Researchers observed that, over the course of four years, students gained nearly 12 pounds. Males gained considerably more weight and body fat than their female counterparts. Additionally, following four years, the percentage of overweight or obese participants increased from 18 to 31 percent.

"Our findings clearly suggest the need for additional campus-based health promotion strategies for students from the freshman year through their senior year of college," Gropper said.

According to Terry Graham, Editor of APNM, and a professor in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences at the University of Guelph, students may be distracted from their health due to studies and extracurricular activities.

Sherrie Delinsky, Ph.D., a psychologist and eating disorders expert at McLean Hospital, in Belmont, Massachusetts, lists nine ways for students to prevent weight gain and lead a healthy life during their matriculation through college.

Dr. Delinksy suggests:

1. Structure your eating habits

2. Don't overdo your dining plan

3. Avoid peer pressure

4. Watch the liquid calories

5. Plan for cramming

6. Keep your dorm free of junk food

7. Take a course on healthy eating

8. Weigh yourself daily

9. Join the gym