Body mass index during childhood, adolescence and young adulthood in relation to adult overweight and adiposity: the Fels Longitudinal Study

Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2000 Dec;24(12):1628-35. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0801461.


Background: Childhood overweight develops during 'critical periods', but the relationship of body mass index (BMI) patterns during 'critical periods' from childhood into adulthood with subsequent overweight and adiposity has not been previously investigated. BMI patterns during early childhood, pubescence and post-pubescence and their independent effects on overweight and body fatness at 35-45 y of age were examined along with birth weight and the effects of adult lifestyle factors.

Methods: BMI parameters describing the timing, velocity minimum (min) and maximum (max) values from 2 to 25 y of age were related to adulthood BMI values and total and percentage body fat (TBF, %BF) at 35-45 y. These data were from 180 males and 158 females in the Fels Longitudinal Study.

Results: There was no sex difference in the timing of BMI rebound, but the age of BMI maximum velocity and maximum BMI were both earlier in girls. Children with an earlier BMI rebound had larger BMI values at rebound and at maximum velocity. Children who reached maximum BMI at later age had larger maximum BMI values. Maximum BMI was a strong predictor for adult BMI and in females, a strong predictor of adulthood TBF and %BF. Maximum BMI was closely related to maximum BMI velocity in females and in males, BMI at maximum velocity is a strong predictor of TBF and %BF.

Conclusions: Changes in childhood BMI were related to adult overweight and adiposity more so in females than males. BMI rebound is a significant important period related to overweight at 35-45 y in females but not in males. However BMI patterns during and post-adolescence were more important than the BMI rebound for adulthood TBF and %BF status. There is marked tracking in BMI from approximately 20 y into 35-45 y. The pattern of BMI changes from 2 to 25 y had stronger effects on subsequent adult overweight than birth weight and adult lifestyle variables.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aging*
  • Birth Weight
  • Body Composition*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Body Weight*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Puberty
  • Sex Characteristics