Freshman Weight Gain Can be Prevented

The Daily Mississippian
Mississippi State University

College students have a lot of concerns about life after high school when they start their freshman year.

Some students have to worry about paying for school, some worry about getting a date for the football game and then others dread the inevitable freshman 15, which plagues the majority of students who enter college.

According to national statistics, more than 1.5 million students enter U.S. colleges and universities each fall, which could lead to more than 11,000 tons of weight added to the incoming freshmen.

A study conducted by Cornell University found that most students gain an average of four pounds during their first 12 weeks of college 11 times higher than the typical weight gain for 17- and 18-year-olds.

There is no cure for the freshman 15, but there are several ways to control the weight gain. A new craze hitting many college campuses is the consumption of organic products.

Organic foods are those raised or conducted without the use of drugs, hormones or synthetic chemicals, according to the supermarket guru Web site.

According to Joseph Mercola, author of Total Health Program, organic gardening produces higher percentages of vitamin C, iron, magnesium and phosphorous. Organic foods also have fewer nitrates.

Studies have shown an increase in the 83 percent of nutrients in conventional produce, Mercola said.

The health benefits of organic products vary from food to food. Just because something is organic does not necessarily make it better for you.

Organic products are not only healthy for the body, but they are also beneficial for the environment.

Conventional farmers apply chemical fertilizers to the crops, whereas organic farmers feed and build soil with natural fertilizers like compost far more environmentally friendly.

Studies show that the use of just one agrochemical contributes to more than 20 percent of the global ozone depletion, Mercola said.

Farmers who grow organic crops use natural methods such as insect predators and barriers to protect the plants.

Pesticides, used by conventional farmers, may have many negative influences on the health of consumers.

Some health concerns include neurotoxicity, carcinogenicity of your endocrine system and immune system suppression.

The pesticides can also affect male reproductive function, and it has been linked to miscarriages in women, Mercola said.

Holly Herrington, a senior family and consumer science major, said organic foods are not necessarily better than conventional produce, but chemicals and pesticides are not getting in your diet with organic products.

Organic meat or diary products can be more beneficial to your health because they do not have antibiotics or growth hormones, which is beneficial for children, especially milk, Herrington said.

According to Herrington, it is a personal choice to avoid the chemicals, pesticides, hormones and antibiotics or to avoid genetically modified foods.

So, if organic foods seem to be better for students health and maintaining proper weight, why is it so expensive?

According to Carlo Leifert, director of the TESCO Center for Organic Agriculture at Newcastle University, the yields are on average between 10 and 20 percent lower than in conventional agriculture and with some crops like potatoes it may be as much as 40 percent lower.

The production costs are also higher in organic farming.

For example, instead of organic farmers using pesticides, they have to weed crops like carrots and onions.

This type of intense manual labor contributes to a more expensive product, Leifert said.

There is a movement among college students to adopt more environmentally-sound food systems. Purchasing foods from local markets, eating seasonal foods and eating more vegetables are all supportive of this movement.

Amy Patrick, a senior journalism major, eats organic chicken as well as other organic products because of allergies, and she feels that it is healthier for her.

With organic foods, I do not have to worry about what I am eating and what chemicals are being transferred from the food to me, Patrick said.

With healthier food choices for college students, healthy eating and college life can go together.