Objective: To estimate the expected weight gain through midlife for those in a given BMI category in young adulthood.
Design and Methods: Group-based trajectory modeling and National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 data from 1990 to 2008 were used to quantify weight trajectories through midlife for 10,038 young adult men and women stratified by BMI category. Logistic regression was used to assess the association of trajectory membership with obesity-related conditions (hypertension, diabetes, arthritis) in middle age.
Results: Annual weight gain averaged 0.53 kg (1.17 lb) across the entire sample. However, there was considerable variation by and within BMI categories. More than 98% of men and 92% of women were on upward-sloping trajectories, generally moving into a higher BMI category by middle age. Those who experienced early and rapid weight gain during young adulthood were most likely to be on a steeper trajectory and had greater risks for obesity-related conditions.
Conclusion: This study points to the health and weight benefits of entering young adulthood with a normal BMI, but further reveals that this is no guarantee of maintaining a healthy weight through midlife. For those who are young adults today, weight maintenance is unlikely to occur without significant environmental or technical innovation.