July 18—While the “freshman 15” is a well-known part of campus life, some international students say the drastic diet change can result in a freshman 20 or 30.
University of Minnesota researcher Andrew Odegaard has been researching the impact of this “Westernization” of diets as part of a study published earlier this month.
He teamed up with researchers from the National University of Singapore and the University of Pittsburgh to analyze the eating habits of Chinese immigrants in Singapore who transitioned from traditional foods to American-style fast food franchises.
In a 16-year health study, he found the risk of dying from heart disease was 19% higher for participants who ate fast food once a week than participants who didn’t eat fast food. That number rose to 80% for participants who ate fast food four or more times a week.
Odegaard said he didn’t think the research could directly apply to international students here because there are many cultural differences, and they are much younger than the people in the study — the 52,600 people he analyzed were aged 45 to 74. But if international students significantly changed their eating habits when they moved to campus, he said, that could cause weight gain in the short term and more serious issues in the long term.