Around the world, more and more people are gaining too much weight. In the United States, nearly half of adults are likely to be obese by 2030. Adult obesity is causally related to cardiometabolic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. The serious consequences of obesity are already widely known. However, until now, it has not been clear as to when people become obese.

At what age do people become obese?

In a recent long-term study from the United Kingdom, researchers used repeated measures of weight and height from electronic health records (EHRs) from more than 2 million people in England. They used this information to identify when excess weight gain occurs. They looked at the risk of gaining too much weight at time periods of 1, 5, and 10 years in adults according to age, where they live, income status, and gender.

People 18-24 years are at highest risk for excess weight gain

Results showed that young adults (age 18–24 years) had the most significant weight gain (about 22 lbs or 10 kg) at 10 years . Also, young adults had the highest absolute risk of progressing from normal weight to overweight or obesity. This increase in weight gain was four times greater compared with older adults (65–74 years). Additionally, researchers learned that weight gain was impacted place of residence, ethnicity, and other social factors, such as being at a disadvantage socially, facing discrimination or lacking social support. This is an important finding, given that overweight and obesity in late teen years accounts for 60% of developing type 2 diabetes before the age of 40. We know that type 2 diabetes is a much more aggressive disease in young adults than in individuals over 40 years of age.

Although many believe that teens and young adults are at their healthiest period in life, they are often overlooked by social and health policies in many countries. Type 2 diabetes in young people is becoming more common. These new findings suggest that more effort should be made to prevent young people becoming obese. These efforts need to begin now as approximately 60% of children in the U.S. will develop obesity by the age of 35 years. Half of these children will develop obesity during childhood or adolescence. As a result, it is important to create effective and preventative health and social policies focused on young adults to prevent future health complications.


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