As a college student, you may be happy simply not to have gained the "Freshman 15." But a University of Illinois study shows that as little as 1.5 pounds per year is enough to raise blood pressure in that age group, and the effect was worse for young women.
"In our study, a small weight gain was enough to raise a college student's systolic blood pressure by 3 to 5 points. If young people continue to gain 1.5 pounds a year and think it doesn't matter, they're misleading themselves and increasing their risk for heart disease," said Margarita Teran-Garcia, a U of I professor of food science and human nutrition.
Data were collected from 795 18- to 20-year-old applicants to the Universidad Autonoma de San Luis Potosi in Mexico who weren't accepted to the university but reapplied the next year. The study assessed changes in BMI and body weight over one year and explored whether the applicants experienced changes in blood pressure and blood glucose levels.
One-year changes in body weight were associated with increased blood pressure for both men and women. In the 25 percent of applicants who had a weight gain of 5 percent or more, that gain was associated with higher blood pressure. The changes were more significant for women than for men, she said.
"The good news is that the reverse was also true. Women who lost 5 percent of their body weight saw reductions in their blood pressure," she said.
The harmful effects of weight gain may be especially pronounced among Mexicans, a group that develops heart disease risk factors at much younger ages and at lower BMIs than comparable groups in the United States. Almost 31 percent of Mexican adults have hypertension, ranging from 13 percent of adults in their twenties to 60 percent of adults age 60 and over, she said.