BMI Trajectories Associated With Resolution of Elevated Youth BMI and Incident Adult Obesity

Pediatrics. 2018 Jan;141(1):e20172003. doi: 10.1542/peds.2017-2003. Epub 2017 Dec 19.


Background and objectives: Youth with high BMI who become nonobese adults have the same cardiovascular risk factor burden as those who were never obese. However, the early-life BMI trajectories for overweight or obese youth who avoid becoming obese adults have not been described. We aimed to determine and compare the young-childhood BMI trajectories of participants according to their BMI status in youth and adulthood.

Methods: Bayesian hierarchical piecewise regression modeling was used to analyze the BMI trajectories of 2717 young adults who had up to 8 measures of BMI from childhood (ages 3-18 years) to adulthood (ages 34-49 years).

Results: Compared with those with persistently high BMI, those who resolved their high youth BMI by adulthood had lower average BMI at age 6 years and slower rates of BMI change from young childhood. In addition, their BMI levels started to plateau at 16 years old for females and 21 years old for males, whereas the BMI of those whose high BMI persisted did not stabilize until 25 years old for male subjects and 27 years for female subjects. Compared with those youth who were not overweight or obese and who remained nonobese in adulthood, those who developed obesity had a higher BMI rate of change from 6 years old, and their BMI continued to increase linearly until age 30 years.

Conclusions: Efforts to alter BMI trajectories for adult obesity should ideally commence before age 6 years. The natural resolution of high BMI starts in adolescence for males and early adulthood for females, suggesting a critical window for secondary prevention.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Body-Weight Trajectory*
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Finland / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Overweight / diagnosis
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Pediatric Obesity / diagnosis*
  • Pediatric Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Distribution