Gaining just 5 to 22 pounds by middle age can have a major effect on health, based on a recent study that links weight gain during adulthood to increased risk for heart disease, cancer and early death.
Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this study analyzed data from more than 118,000 U.S. adults followed for over three decades. It included 92,837 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study and 25,303 men participating in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. In both studies, participants were followed from ages 18–21 through 55 years old for changes in weight and key outcomes like heart disease and death.
During the study period, women gained an average of 22 pounds and men gained an average of 19 pounds by age 55. However, researchers found that adults gaining 5–22 pounds had significantly greater risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity-related cancer and early mortality than those whose weight remained stable. Researchers also found that participants whose weight remained stable were more likely to have a higher healthy aging score, which means living free of chronic diseases or any physical or mental impairments.
Findings show that weight gain during adulthood is associated with increased risk for chronic diseases and death. They also demonstrate the negative impact that weight gain can have on quality of life, as it decreases odds of healthy aging.
The take-home message, according to authors, is the importance of maintaining a healthy weight. Research shows that even small weight gains have an immediate impact on health, so preventing significant weight gain, especially during early and middle age, is always preferable.
Experts also highlight the need to teach children healthy lifestyle habits early in life, such as eating healthy and staying active. These habits carry well into adulthood and can go a long way in promoting a healthy weight and preventing chronic disease.