Foundation for adult body weight may be laid during adolescence

December 08, 2003

CHICAGO - Adolescent body mass index and changes in physical activity between adolescence and adulthood are good predictors of BMI in adulthood, according to an article in the December issue of The Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

According to the article, in recent decades, body mass index (BMI, weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters) and the proportion of overweight and obese people has increased worldwide. Several studies have shown that tracking (patients maintaining their relative positions weight-wise in their age-sex group over time) is fairly common.

Elisabeth Kvaavik, M.Sc. of the Institute for Nutrition Research, Oslo, Norway, and colleagues examined tracking of BMI from age 15 to 33 to assess the effects of adolescent and adult health behavior and parent's BMI and education on adult BMI. They also examined changes in lifestyle factors (such as smoking and amount of physical activity) as predictors of adult overweight and obesity.

The researchers followed-up 485 adolescents (average age a the beginning of the study, 15 years) from Oslo, Norway, for 18 to 20 years. The study began in 1979. Weight, height, physical fitness, leisure time physical activity (LTPA), smoking and education were assessed at the beginning of the study and at follow-up. Parents height, weight and education were assessed at the beginning of the study.

"The main findings of this study were that BMI tracks significantly from adolescence into adulthood and that the subjects own BMI during adolescence, father's BMI, and LTPA and smoking in adulthood were strong predictors of adult BMI," the researchers write. "Smoking cessation between adolescence and adulthood increased the risk of being overweight as adults, while an increase in LTPA and a high educational level among parents and participants reduced the risk of being overweight as adults. The results from this study provide strong rationale for obesity prevention at a young age. Such efforts should include the parents, and promotion of physical activity appears to be a critical component of such prevention efforts."
(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2003;157:1212-1218. Available post-embargo at Editor's Note: The Oslo Youth Study was supported by the Norwegian Cancer Society, Oslo. This work was supported by a grant from the EXTRA funds from the Norwegian Foundation for Health and Rehabilitation, Oslo (Ms. Kvaavik).

For more information, contact JAMA/Archives Media Relations at 312-464-JAMA (5262) or e-mail .

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