A major study of long-term weight gain in America has found that more than a third of adults gained 10% or more body weight over a 10-year period.

With severe obesity almost doubling in the last 20 years, researchers set out to examine in more detail long-term weight gain, who it affects the most, and at what point in their lives.

Looking at data from nearly 14,000 people, they found that more than half saw their weight increase by 5% or more, with almost a fifth of the group gaining 20% or more.

The study’s lead author Larry Tucker, from Brigham Young University in Utah, said: “The U.S. obesity epidemic is not slowing down. Without question, 10-year weight gain is a serious problem within the U.S. adult population.”

The biggest weight gains were noted in young and middle-aged adults, with the team finding that people gained less weight as they got older. They found the average weight gains for people in different age brackets were:

  • 17.6 pounds between their 20s and 30s
  • 14.3 pounds between their 30s and 40s
  • 9.5 pounds between their 40s and 50s
  • 4.6 pounds between their 50s and 60s.

Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey also found that women gained around twice as much weight as men over the 10-year period, putting on an average of 12 pounds compared to six pounds in men.

Differences across different races was also noted – Black women saw the biggest increase, gaining an average of 19.4 pounds, while Asian men recorded the least with an average of 2.9 pounds.

National figures show that the number of obese people in America has risen from 30.5% in 2000 to 42.4% now.

Dr Tucker said: “In roughly 20 years, the prevalence of obesity increased by approximately 40% and severe obesity almost doubled. By knowing who is more likely to become obese, we can help health care providers and public health officials focus more on at-risk individuals.”

Read the study in full in the Journal of Obesity.

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