Gaining weight in your 20s, 30s and late 40s increases the risk of an early death by more than a fifth, according to new research.
A study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that people who became obese between the age of 25 (young adulthood) and around 47 (midlife) had a 22% higher risk of dying from any cause, and a 49% increased risk of dying from heart disease.
Going from obese to non-obese body mass index over the same period was not significantly associated with mortality risk, the study found.
However, the same was not true for people who lost weight later in life.
Those who went from being obese to a healthy weight between middle age and later in life had a 30% increased risk of dying early from any cause and a 48% increased risk from heart disease.
Therefore, stable obesity across adulthood, weight gain from young to middle adulthood, and weight loss from middle to late adulthood were associated with increased risks of mortality, according to the study findings.
Researchers analysed data from 36,051 people who were aged 40 or over at the start of the study.
They were weighed and measured at the start, and told researchers how much they weighed at 25 and 10 years previously.
During a 12-year follow-up, 10,500 deaths were recorded.
“Maintaining obesity across adulthood was consistently associated with increased risk of all cause mortality,” the study concluded.
“The findings imply that maintaining normal weight across adulthood, especially preventing weight gain in early adulthood, is important for preventing premature deaths in later life,” it said.
Researchers also said that no significant associations were found between various weight change patterns and cancer mortality.
They said future studies were needed to unravel the mechanisms underlying the association between weight change across adulthood and mortality, particularly in relation to changes to a person’s body composition to mortality.
In addition, as weight loss is less achievable (only 1.4% participants changed from the obese to the non-obese category from young to late adulthood), researchers said their results suggested that prevention of weight gain might be more important.
Obesity has been flagged by medics and health experts as a serious public health problem. Researchers said the global prevalence of obesity in adults increased from 3% in 1975 to 11% in 2016 among men and from 6% to 15% among women.
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