In the United States, there has been a steady increase in overweight and obesity; in 2003-4, 66.3 percent of American adults were overweight or obese compared with 14.5 percent in 1976. In the current issue of British Medical Journal, researchers report that weight gain in mid-life is strongly related to a reduced likelihood of healthy survival among women who live to older ages.
In order to examine the theory that mid-life weight gain was associated with poorer health status among those who survived to older ages, investigators from the Harvard School of Public Health and their colleagues studied 17,065 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study who were free from major chronic disease at mid-life and who survived until at least the age of 70. Of the study participants, 1686 met the criteria for healthy survival, which was defined as having no history of 11 major chronic diseases and having no significant cognitive, mental, or physical limitations. The investigators found that increased body mass index (BMI) was significantly associated with a reduced probability of health survival. Women with a BMI of at least 30 had 79 percent lower odds of healthy survival than women with a BMI of under 23. In addition, the greater the weight gain from age 18 until mid-life, the less likely was healthy survival after the age of 70. Women who had a BMI of 25 or more at age 18 and experienced a weight gain of at least 10 kilograms had the lowest likelihood of healthy survival.
This study highlights the importance of maintaining a healthy weight from early adulthood and avoiding weight gain, especially for women, as obesity at mid-life is a strong risk factor predicting a lower probability of healthy survival. It seems that maintaining a healthy weight throughout adulthood may be associated with optimal overall health at older ages. As more and more Americans are living longer and longer, the implications of this study grow increasingly important.
Created on: 10/16/2009
Reviewed on: 11/01/2011