Obesity has become a major health problem in Western societies by increasing the risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. Although data on tracking of body mass index (BMI) are available, little is known about the impact of weight change over time on the development of vascular damage.
Objective: To evaluate the relationship between adolescent BMI as well as change in BMI from adolescence into young adulthood and cardiovascular risk, as estimated by common carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT).
Design: Cohort study.
Subjects: A total of 750 healthy young adults, aged 27-30 y, who attended secondary school in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
Measurements: Data on adolescent weight, height, blood pressure and puberty stage were available from the original school health records of the Municipal Health Service. At young adulthood, a questionnaire on cardiovascular risk factors was completed and fasting blood sample was drawn and common CIMT was measured.
Results: One standard deviation (s.d.) increase in adolescent BMI was associated with 2.3 microm [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.3; 3.3] increase in mean common CIMT in young adults after adjustment for gender, adolescent age, adolescent blood pressure, puberty stage and lumen diameter. Further adjustment for adult cardiovascular risk factors did not change the relationship (linear regression coefficient=2.1 microm/s.d.; 95% CI: 1.0; 3.1). Adjustment for adult BMI attenuated the association (linear regression coefficient=0.9 microm/s.d.; 95% CI: -0.3; 2.2) as the majority of overweight and obese adolescents remained overweight or became obese young adults. Subjects who remained in the upper BMI distribution from adolescence into young adulthood had a significantly higher common CIMT compared to those who showed relative weight loss over time (mean difference 14.7 mum; P<0.001). These latter showed similar CIMT values as individuals with constant low BMI.
Conclusion: Adolescent BMI predicts cardiovascular risk, as estimated by common CIMT in young adulthood. Individuals who experience the largest increase in BMI and those who remain overweight over time have the thickest common CIMT.