October 19, 2015


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Dr. Rand Paul Uncovers $380K NIH Study on ‘Freshman 15’ in Latest ‘The Waste Report’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rand Paul today released the latest edition to ‘The Waste Report,’ an ongoing project cataloguing egregious examples of waste within the U.S. government. The latest edition highlights the National Institutes for Health (NIH) conducting a $380,000 study seeking to identify how social relationships freshman year of college contribute to weight-related problems, commonly referred to as the “freshman 15.”

The latest edition of ‘The Waste Report’ can be found HERE or below.

The “freshman 15” is an old legend around college campuses; the idea that new college students, away from home and confronted with a campus food service smorgasbord tend to put on a few extra pounds.  

Well the National Institutes for Health aims to get to the bottom of this with a $380,000 grant to study how social relationships in college contribute to weight-related problems.[1] Because it’s not the food you eat, it’s the friends you make.

The study being done at Arizona State University (ASU) seeks to identify how the friendships freshman make in college contribute to weight-gain and poor eating habits. In addition to collecting data on the types of friends college freshmen make, the study will, “survey friends of participating students across an academic year to explore friends’ potential impact on freshmen’s weight-related outcomes.” 


Nothing like asking your new friends about your eating habits. “So, how many chili dogs did Tom really eat?” “So, how many of your sorority sisters skipped breakfast?”


But there may be a wrinkle in this plan that makes it even more wasteful of tax dollars. College weight gain might not even be a problem. Numerous independent studies spanning decades have agreed that freshman only gain around 2.7 to 3.5lbs over their entire freshman year. It turns out it was Seventeen magazine that arbitrarily put the number at 15 back in 1989.


But even the 2 to 3lbs might not even be a problem. An Ohio State University (OSU) study comparing college freshman to their non-college peers and found only a discrepancy of about half a pound, attributing most of the weight gain at the tail end of growing to adult size. The OSU study concludes, “anti-obesity efforts directed specifically at college freshmen will likely have little impact on obesity prevalence among young adults.” Even ones aimed at your social weight gain?


To put it in perspective, with an in-state cost of attendance at about $27,000 and out-of-state at $42,000, these funds could have paid for 9 to 14 freshman’s first year at ASU, if not more critical research or reduce the federal deficit.



Bruening, Meredith M, The Role of Friendship Networks on BMI and Behaviors among College Freshman, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ.  NIH Award Number 5DP5OD017910-03 September 2015


Breene, Sophia, Why the ‘Freshman 15’ is a Lie; Huffington Post via Greatist; New York, NY; September 2013

Grabmeier, Jeff, The Freshman Fifteen just a Myth, Nationwide Study Reveals; Research News-Ohio State University; Columbus, OH October, 2011.

Calculated using cost attendance at ASU found at: