JAMA Logo Obesity in early life now seems to play a major role in later life. According to a recent study, obese adolescents have intense risk of being severely overweight in adulthood. The threat was supposedly strong for women and highest for black women. It was suggested that inclusion of interventions before adulthood to avoid the progression of obesity can decline severe obesity incidence and potentially life-threatening consequences.

Those with severe obesity with a BMI of 40 or greater may suffer from deadly health complications. During the analysis, 8,834 individuals aged 12 to 21 years were included in wave II of the U.S. National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. These participants were followed up into adulthood at the age of 18-27 years during wave III from 2001-2002 and 24-33 years in wave IV initiated from 2007-2009. Experts measured the height and weight of the volunteers and conducted surveys in homes by standardized procedures.

Scientists allege, “In 2000, an estimated 2.2 percent of adults, or 4.8 million individuals, were severely obese, with a disproportionately higher prevalence in women and racial/ethnic minorities. Yet, few national studies track individuals overtime to understand the progression of obesity to severe obesity. Understanding which individuals are at risk of severe obesity is essential for determining when interventions would need to be implemented to prevent obese individuals from progressing to severe obesity. Although observational studies have reported that the prevalences of overweight, obesity, and severe obesity have increased in recent years, individuals who are obese early in life have not been studied longitudinally to determine their risk of developing severe obesity in adulthood.”

Newly registered cases of adult-onset severe obesity were noted on the basis of sex, race/ethnicity, and adolescent weight status. The accumulated results were then weighted for national representation. Natalie S. The, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and colleagues observed that in 1996 around 79 teens representing 1.0 percent were severely obese and 60 forming 70.5 percent continued remaining severely obese in later life. For a 13-year period between adolescence in 1996 and adulthood dated 2007-2009, 703 new cases of severe obesity in later life were reported. So the total incidence rate of obesity possibly was 7.9 percent.

Investigators conclude, “A substantial proportion of obese adolescents became severely obese by their early 30s, with significant variation by sex. Among individuals who were obese as adolescents, incident severe obesity was 37.1 percent in men and 51.3 percent in women. Incident severe obesity was highest among black women at 52.4 percent. Across all sex and racial/ethnic groups, less than 5 percent of individuals who were at a normal weight in adolescence became severely obese in adulthood.”

It was concluded that those with severe obesity in adulthood have a greater adolescent BMI. Such an association may be generally noted in individuals belonging to racial/ethnic minorities than individuals without severe obesity. Investigators believe that obese adolescents are more capable of being severely obese than normal-weight or overweight adolescents.

The study is published in the November 10 issue of JAMA.