Early, Middle Adulthood Weight Gain Linked to Increased Chronic Disease Risk

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Data were collected from the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.
Data were collected from the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.

Weight gain during early to middle adulthood is associated with an increased risk of major chronic diseases and decreases the likelihood of healthy aging, researchers reported in JAMA.

Using data from the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, Yan Zheng, MD, PhD, from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues conducted a cohort analysis to measure the association of weight gain from early to middle adulthood with health outcomes later in life.

The study included a total of 92,837 women from the Nurses' Health Study and 25,303 men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study who recalled their weight during early adulthood (18 or 21 years of age) and reported their current weight during middle adulthood at 55 years of age.

The adjusted incidence for type 2 diabetes was 207 per 100,000 person-years among women who gained a moderate amount of weight (≥2.5 kg to <10 kg), compared with 110 per 100,000 person-years among women who maintained a stable weight (weight loss ≤2.5 kg or gained <2.5 kg; absolute rate difference [ARD], 98). Among men, the adjusted incidence was 258 vs 147 per 100,000 person-years (ARD, 111).

In addition, the incidence of hypertension was 3415 vs 2754 per 100,000 person-years in women (ARD, 662) and 2861 vs 2366 per 100,000 person-years in men (ARD, 495). The incidence of cardiovascular disease was 309 vs 248 per 100,000 person-years in women (ARD, 61) and 383 vs 340 per 100,000 person-years in men (ARD, 43). The incidence of obesity-related cancer was 452 vs 415 in women (ARD, 37) and 208 vs 165 in men (ARD, 42).

Among participants who gained a moderate amount of weight, 24% of women and 37% of men achieved the “healthy aging outcome,” defined as being free of 11 chronic diseases and major cognitive or physical impairment, compared with 27% of women and 39% of men who maintained a stable weight.

William H. Dietz, MD, PhD, Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness, Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University, Washington, DC, noted in an accompanying editorial that it will not be possible to provide effective treatment for all those affected due to the current prevalence of obesity.

“Therefore, efforts to prevent and control this widespread disease must be renewed,” Dr Dietz wrote. “Reducing and preventing obesity and excessive weight gain in young adults provide a new target, and one that could offer an effective transgenerational approach for prevention.”

References

  1. Zheng Y, Manson JE, Yuan C, et al. Associations of weight gain from early to middle adulthood with major health outcomes later in life. JAMA. 2017;318(3):255-269
  2. Dietz WH. Obesity and excessive weight gain in young adults: New targets for prevention. JAMA. 2017;318(3):241-242
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