A January 2018 Pediatrics study that tracked the body mass index (BMI) of more than 2,700 people in Finland over three decades and used a novel statistical modelling approach to identify key ages when achieving a healthy BMI may prevent obesity during middle age.
The study, “Body Mass Index Trajectories Associated with Resolution of Elevated Youth BMI and Incident Adult Obesity,” published online Dec. 19, found that compared to people who will develop adult obesity, people who avoid obesity as an adult had a lower BMI at age 6 and a lower yearly change in BMI in childhood. This finding echoed earlier studies linking healthy early childhood BMI and healthy childhood BMI growth with lower adult obesity rates. However, the researchers also identified a second “critical window” for potential secondary prevention of obesity beginning in adolescence for females and early adulthood for males. In overweight or obese children who managed to become non-obese adults, researchers found that BMI levels started to stabilize from 16 years for females and 21 years for males, while BMI kept increasing until age 25 (for males) and 27 (for females) for overweight or obese children who persisted with obesity into adulthood.
The researchers said the findings support focusing efforts to achieve a healthy BMI by age 6 and to maintain a healthy BMI gain throughout childhood, with a second chance to correct adverse BMI trajectories among teens and young adults to help prevent obesity later in life.