Health & Medicine

‘Freshman 15’ weight gain lasts all four years, study finds

Students beneath a canopy of fall foliage on the campus of Sac State in Sacramento on Wednesday, November 18, 2015.
Students beneath a canopy of fall foliage on the campus of Sac State in Sacramento on Wednesday, November 18, 2015.

The term “freshman 15” describing the dozen or so pounds that college students typically put on during their first year of school may be a bit of a misnomer, according to a recent study in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.

The study, led by researchers from the University of Vermont, found that students gain an average of just 3 pounds during their freshman year but about 10 pounds by the time they graduate. Twenty-three percent of the students in the study were overweight or obese as they were starting college, but 41 percent were in that category by the end of senior year, the study found.

The weight gain was attributed to students not meeting the recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise and not eating enough vegetables. The findings suggest that universities should not limit their healthy eating and active lifestyle campaigns just to freshmen, but should continue the messaging over all four years of school.

Harvard study is first to examine depression in airline pilots

Long hours in the cockpit take a toll on pilots’ mental health, according to the first major study on the subject from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Researchers conducted web surveys of 1,800 pilots in 2015, shortly after a Germanwings co-pilot who suffered from depression deliberately crashed a plane into the French Alps, killing 150. The study appeared online Dec. 14 in the journal Environmental Health.

The surveys showed that 13 percent of pilots interviewed, from about 50 countries, met the criteria for depression and 4 percent reported having suicidal thoughts. Male pilots were more likely than female pilots to experience symptoms of depression “nearly every day,” but female pilots were more likely to have been diagnosed with depression.

Pilots may feel overwhelmed with the responsibility of ensuring the safety of hundreds of people every day, researchers said. Still, many stay quiet for fear of losing their jobs.

“We found that many pilots currently flying are managing depressive symptoms, and it may be that they are not seeking treatment due to the fear of negative career impacts,” said Joseph Allen, senior author of the study. “There is a veil of secrecy around mental health issues in the cockpit.”

E-cigarettes can cause bronchitis in teens

In one of the first studies to look at the long-term health effects of electronic cigarettes, University of Southern California researchers found that the popular gadgets can cause lung damage down the line.

The study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care in November, involved 2,000 California children, some of whom had never smoked e-cigarettes. Others had smoked in the past, while some had smoked within 30 days. After examining the children for bronchitic symptoms common among smokers, researchers found that the symptoms were 85 percent more common among past users and about 50 percent more common among current users.

Electronic cigarettes cannot legally be sold to people under 18 nationally or to people under the age of 21 in California.

“Our results suggest that these regulations and an environment that discourages the initiation of any tobacco product may reduce the burden of chronic respiratory symptoms in youths,” said Dr. Rob McConnell, lead author of the study.

Sammy Caiola: 916-321-1636, @SammyCaiola