Moderate weight gain in early adulthood could be linked to health conditions such as type 2 diabetes in later life, a study suggests.
The weight of more than 90,000 women and 25,000 men, all of whom were health professionals, were studied as part of the research carried out by the Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health in Bosto, Massachusetts.
Researchers found that an increase of just 2.5 kg (5.5 pounds) and 10 kg (22.0 pounds) between the ages of 18 and 21 raised the chances in later life of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity-related cancers, and death in both men and women.
A link was also found between avoiding this moderate weight gain and the higher chance of a person living a healthy life without chronic disease.
The authors said: “In these cohorts of health professionals, weight gain during adulthood was associated with significantly increased risk of major chronic diseases and decreased odds of healthy aging.
“These findings may help counsel patients regarding the risks of weight gain. These findings may help counsel patients regarding the risks of weight gain.”
To gather the study findings, the researchers recorded the weight from women and men using the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. They monitored their data until they reached the age of 55 and recorded any health problems which had developed.
The found that putting on just 11 pounds as a young adult could significantly raise the chances of suffering from a serious heart condition in later life.
Dr William H. Dietz, an obesity expert at George Washington University, who wasn’t involved in the study, wrote in an accompanying editorial: “Young adulthood has been a neglected period of study in the development of obesity. Efforts to prevent obesity have focused on children and adolescents.
“However, the two-fold difference in the prevalence of obesity between the ages of six and 11 years (17 per cent) and 20 and 39 years (34 per cent), rates of excessive weight gain in young adults, and the increased morbidity and mortality associated with excessive weight gain indicate that efforts to prevent and control obesity in young adults should be accorded a high priority.
“The challenge will be that many individuals, particularly men between the ages of 20 and 39 years feel healthy, and have no medical problems that precipitate a visit to a physician.”
The findings have been published in JAMA.

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