We've all heard of the freshman 15. You know, those extra pounds freshman gain in their first few months in college.

Now there's lots of talk about the COVID-19, a reference to the weight people are packing on as they isolate at home to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Lots of people have given themselves permission to gain a few pounds during this stressful time because they know they will take it off when the new “normal” returns.

But allowing your weight to fluctuate, even temporarily, may negatively impact your health long term, according to experts at LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

In a new federally funded study, Pennington's researchers will delve into the metabolic consequences of short-term weight gain.

“The idea is to understand and better inform an individual about what happens to their body during changes in weight,” said Dr. Ursula White, assistant professor and primary investigator for the study. “We’ll be looking at how changes in the fat tissue during weight gain can influence health outcomes in the future.”

Putting on 10 pounds during a stressful time, even if a person sheds the weight quickly, can have unintended consequences.

“You’ve potentially changed your physiology in a way that you don’t understand," White said. “You may have made your body less sensitive to insulin or increased your risk of heart disease.”

Although most people look at fat as just an energy reservoir — the place where excess calories are stored — fat has a lot of other functions, White said. Fat affects a person’s entire metabolism and influences everything from appetite and immune systems to blood clotting and hormone levels.

There have been some studies about what happens when a person gains weight, White said, but no one has studied what happens to the functions of fat, aside from the changes in mass.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health is funding the five-year study. White said she expects participants will start to be recruited for the study this year.