Impact of weight gain from early to middle adulthood explored

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by Tom Wilemon

With the adaptation of Western lifestyles, a dramatic increase in obesity has occurred in many Asian countries. An analysis of weight gain occurring from early to middle adulthood indicates that the added weight is associated with multiple health outcomes in later life, according to a study published recently in JAMA Network Open.

The vast majority of middle-aged or elderly individuals with obesity cumulate their excessive adiposity by gaining weight from early to middle adulthood. While there have been multiple studies on the impact of weight gain on health, few have defined the weight gain over an age-specific range.

Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center analyzed data from two cohort studies, including 48,377 women and 35,989 men between the ages of 40 and 59. They focused on how weight gain from early adulthood at the age of 20 into middle-age years impacted health outcomes in later life. Every 5 kg (11 pounds) of weight gain was associated with an increased risk of all-cause deaths by around 10% and cardiovascular disease death by 20% among those who were overweight at middle adulthood.

Interestingly, among those who maintained a normal weight at middle adulthood, gaining weight early in life was not associated with an increased risk of all-cause deaths or deaths due to cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

People who gained weight in early life but maintained a healthy body weight in middle adulthood did not have an increased risk of obesity-related cancer. However, those who gained weight in early adulthood and became overweight at middle age had a significantly increased risk of obesity-related cancer later in life.

Regardless of weight in middle adulthood, weight gain early in life was associated with an increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, stroke, gallstones and fatty liver disease.