Research Links Early Adulthood Weight Gain and Long-term Health
Maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding weight gain are associated with positive health outcomes. But, if we do gain weight, does the age at which we gain it affect our long-term health? Researchers recently examined the association between weight gain during early to middle adulthood with health outcomes later in life. The study yielded interesting results.
The researchers compiled data from the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. They focused on women and men who reported weight gain at ages 18 and 21, respectively, and who reported their weight at age 55. From early adulthood to age 55, the women in the study gained an average of 27.8 pounds and men gained an average of 21.4 pounds.
Compared to those who maintained a stable weight, the participants who gained a moderate amount of weight (5.5-22 pounds) during early adulthood had increased incidence of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity-related cancer and mortality.
Additionally, each gain of 11 pounds was associated with a 17 percent decrease in the odds of healthy aging. Healthy aging was defined as a composite outcome of no self-reported physical limitations, cognitive decline or history of diseases (i.e., cardiovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis). The researchers pointed out that this weight gain usually consists of fat, not muscle mass which may contribute to the development on chronic conditions.
This study is likely the beginning of more research into the associations between the age of fat accumulation and chronic health risks. With over nearly 40% of Americans being considered obese, the health implications are concerning. This study highlights the importance of weight maintenance throughout adulthood, which can be supported through employer wellness programs that focus on helping employees maintain and develop habits that support weight management.
Bottom line: Maintaining a healthy weight should be a priority. And, it is best to avoid weight gain at any age, especially during early adulthood, to decrease your risk of certain chronic diseases. If you are interested in learning more about smoking cessation and other wellness programs offered by Wellness Workdays please download our brochure.
Written by: Abby Cannon, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern.