Clinical Edge

Summaries of Must-Read Clinical Literature, Guidelines, and FDA Actions

Weight Gain & Odds of Healthy Aging

JAMA; 2017 Jul 18; Zheng, Manson, et al

Among both men and women, weight gain from early to middle adulthood was associated with significantly increased odds of major chronic diseases and mortality, a recent study found. The cohort analysis of US women from the Nurses’ Health Study and US men from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study examined weight change from early to middle adulthood (age of 18 or 21 years to age of 55 years). Beginning at age 55 years, participants were followed up to the incident disease outcomes. Researchers found:

  • A total 92,837 women and 25,303 men were included in the analysis.
  • Compared with participants who maintained a stable weight (weight loss ≤2.5 kg or gain <2.5 kg), those who gained a moderate amount of weight (≥2.5 to <10.0 kg) had increased incidence of the following:
    • 88% increase in type 2 diabetes.
    • 25% increase for women and 13% increase for men in cardiovascular disease.
    • 9% increase for women and 25% increase for men in obesity-related cancer.
  • Higher amounts of weight gain were associated with greater risks of major chronic diseases.


Zheng Y, Manson JE, Yuan C, et al. Associations of weight gain from early to middle adulthood with major health outcomes later in life. JAMA. 2017;318(3):255-269. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.7092.


The rate of obesity worldwide has doubled over the last 35 years and has become the health epidemic of this century. Previous evidence shows that obesity increases the incidence of diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and cancers of the breast and colon. Since obesity does not develop suddenly, but rather over a number of years, a study like the one reviewed here provides insight into the relation to acquisition of the risk factor and outcomes. In the US, most adults gain an average of 1-2 pounds per year from early to middle adulthood.1 This study adds to our knowledge showing that the slow accumulation of excess weight over time increases the likelihood of developing diabetes, hypertension and obesity-related cancers, and in case there was any question left, clarifies that this slow weight gain is an issue that should be addressed during our office visits with young adults. —Neil Skolnik, MD

  1. Hutfless S, Maruthur NM, Wilson RF, et al. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. 2013.