Using data from the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study, we evaluated the influence of adulthood weight history on mortality risk. The National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study is an observational cohort study of US men and women who were aged 50-71 years at entry in 1995-1996. This analysis focused on 109,947 subjects who had never smoked and were younger than age 70 years. We estimated hazard ratios of total and cause-specific mortality for recalled body mass index (BMI; weight (kg)/height (m)(2)) at ages 18, 35, and 50 years; weight change across 3 adult age intervals; and the effect of first attaining an elevated BMI at 4 successive ages. During 12.5 years' follow-up through 2009, 12,017 deaths occurred. BMI at all ages was positively related to mortality. Weight gain was positively related to mortality, with stronger associations for gain between ages 18 and 35 years and ages 35 and 50 years than between ages 50 and 69 years. Mortality risks were higher in persons who attained or exceeded a BMI of 25.0 at a younger age than in persons who reached that threshold later in adulthood, and risks were lowest in persons who maintained a BMI below 25.0. Heavier initial BMI and weight gain in early to middle adulthood strongly predicted mortality risk in persons aged 50-69 years.
Keywords: body mass index; body weight; mortality; obesity; weight gain; weight loss.