NEW ORLEANS – United States veterans born since 1950 have gained weight faster than a comparable cohort of older veterans, results from a large analysis demonstrated. In fact, they’re starting out about 10 kg heavier than previous generations.
“There is a tremendous need for an intervention to prevent or reverse weight gain in this population to prevent the development of diabetes,” lead author Margery J. Tamas said in an interview at the annual scientific sessions of the American Diabetes Association.
In an effort to examine age-related trends in body weight and diabetes prevalence in the U.S. Veterans Health Administration system, Ms. Tamas and her associates used the VA Informatics and Computing Infrastructure to examine trends in diabetes among 4,680,735 patients born between 1915 and 1984 who had at least one outpatient visit per year within any consecutive 4-year interval between 2000 and 2014. More than one-third (36%) had diabetes, 92% were male, 78% were white, and their mean age was 69 years. The researchers defined the birth cohorts by 5-year intervals.
Ms. Tamas, who conducted the research as part of her master’s thesis at the Georgia State University School of Public Health, Atlanta, reported that diabetes was more prevalent among men, compared with women (38% vs. 24%, respectively). Diabetes prevalence was highest among patients born between 1940 and 1944 (44%) and lowest among those born between 1980 and 1984 (4%).
The assessment of weight also revealed that the median baseline weight was higher in men and women with diabetes (94 kg and 86 kg, respectively), compared with their counterparts who did not have diabetes (84 kg and 73 kg, respectively). The researchers observed that median weight increased significantly between 2000 and 2014 (P less than .001), with the greatest increase among patients without diabetes. The highest rate of weight increase occurred in women without diabetes (an increase of 0.39 kg per year). However, between 2000 and 2014 weight decreased in the oldest patient cohorts and increased in the youngest cohorts. “Weight changed faster at younger ages, and was highest in those with diabetes and in women,” Ms. Tamas said. “This kind of pattern where young people are gaining weight faster than older people has also been seen in the Global Burden of Disease Study.”
She acknowledged certain limitations of the analysis, including the fact that the data do not correct for survival bias. The study was based on work supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Ms. Tamas reported having no financial disclosures relevant to this research.