Weight Gain After Adolescence Can Spark Chronic Health Problems

Gaining a few pounds here and there from young adulthood to middle age is common. But as the pounds add up, what are the health consequences?

Research published in the last edition of JAMA analyzed data on 118,140 adults. From age 18 to 55, women gained an average of 28 pounds; men gained, on average, 21 pounds from age 21 to 55. Compared with those whose weight had remained stable (neither gaining nor losing more than about five pounds), people who had gained were more likely to have developed Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, severe osteoarthritis, gallstones, weight-related cancer or cataracts by their early 70s. They were also more likely to have died.

The more weight gained, the greater the risk for these conditions, but risk increased significantly with as little as an 11-pound gain over 30-some years. The less people’s weight had changed earlier in life, the more likely they were to have achieved what is called “healthy aging,” meaning no chronic diseases, no cognitive decline and no physical limitations on average activities.

Adults who gain weight from early adulthood to middle age. The researchers noted that small increases often are overlooked because the health “conse­quences of modest weight accumulation may not yet be apparent.”