Persistently overweight adolescents are unlikely to achieve normal weight in young adulthood, Australian study shows.
University of Melbourne researchers sought to assess changes in overweight and obesity between adolescence and young adulthood. In the study 1,520 adolescents of Victoria were tracked from the age of 14 for a period of 10 years. Participants were classified as non-overweight, overweight, or obese according to International Obesity Taskforce cutoff points.
The proportion of overweight individuals increased from 20% in mid-adolescence to 33% at the age of 24 years. Obesity increased from 3.6% to 6.7%. Approximately 40% of young adults with a BMI of 25 or more had been persistently at normal weights during adolescence and approximately 80% had been at a normal weight at some point. Around half of obese young adults had never been classified as obese as adolescents. No individual with persistent obesity in adolescence had a BMI less than 25 at 24 years. A total of 31% of females and 59% of males who had been overweight for only one or two waves of adolescent data collection had a BMI of 25 or more at 24 years.
Writing in the Journal of Adolescent Health, George C. Patton, M.D., Centre for Adolescent Health, and others wrote, "Substantial shifts in overweight and obesity occur between adolescence and young adulthood; the extent of continuity depends on both the severity and persistence of adiposity in adolescence. Few adolescents who peak into obesity or are persistently overweight achieve a normal weight in young adulthood. Resolution is more common in those who are less persistently overweight as teenagers, suggesting scope for lifestyle interventions in this subgroup."