Objective: To examine the prevalence and correlates of large weight gains and losses over a 3 y period in a heterogeneous population of participants in a study of weight gain prevention.
Design and measures: Analyses based on a cohort of 823 participants in a weight gain prevention study whose weight was measured on at least two of four annual examinations.
Results: Weight gains and losses of >or=5% body weight over 1 y were observed in 9.3 and 15% of the population, respectively. Weight gains among those initially losing weight were significantly greater (3.9 kg) than among those experiencing stable weight (0.8 kg) or a large weight gain (1.5 kg) over the following 2 y. Cumulative weight changes over 3 y were -2.6, 1.0 and 7.6 kg among large loss, weight stable and large gain groups, respectively. Large weight loss was more common in smokers, large gains were more common in younger people and in those with a more extensive weight loss history, and stable weight was observed more often in individuals with less extensive histories of weight loss.
Conclusion: The high prevalence of large short-term weight gains and losses in this heterogeneous population, their apparent resistance to short-term reversal, and the strength of their relationship to longer-term weight trends suggest that rapid weight change over relatively short time intervals is a phenomenon that deserves more research attention. Short periods of rapid weight gain may contribute importantly to rapidly rising obesity rates.