Weight gain in early adult life may increase early death risk

In a new study, researchers found gaining weight from your mid-20s into middle age is associated with an increased risk of premature death.

Weight loss at older ages (from the middle to late adulthood) was also linked to higher risk.

These findings highlight the importance of maintaining normal weight throughout adult life to reduce the risk of premature death.

The research was conducted by a team from Huazhong University of Science and Technology.

Obesity in adults is known to be linked to a higher risk of premature death.

In the United States, 36% of men and 38% of women were obese in 2016, up from 11% of men and 14% of women in 1975.

But little is known about the long term effects of weight change during adult life, especially from young to middle adulthood.

To explore this further, the researchers set out to examine the association between weight changes across adulthood and death.

Their findings are based on data from the 1988-94 and 1999-2014 US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) – a nationally representative annual survey that includes interviews, physical examinations, and blood samples, to gauge the health of US citizens.

Their analysis included 36,051 people aged 40 years or over with measured body weight and height at the start of the survey and recalled weight at young adulthood (25 years old) and middle adulthood (average age 47 years).

The researchers found that people who remained obese throughout adult life had the highest risk of mortality, while people who remained overweight throughout adult life had a very modest or no association with mortality.

Weight gain from young to middle adulthood was associated with an increased risk of mortality, compared with participants who remained at normal weight.

Weight loss over this period was not significantly related to mortality.

But as people got older, the association between weight gain and mortality weakened, whereas the association with weight loss from the middle to late adulthood became stronger and significant.

No significant associations were found between various weight change patterns and cancer mortality.

The team says stable obesity across adulthood, weight gain from young to middle adulthood, and weight loss from the middle to late adulthood were linked to increased risks of mortality.

The lead author of the study is Chen Chen.

The study is published in The BMJ.

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