Study Finds Childhood BMI May Influence Poorer Health Outcomes in Adulthood


This study was among the first to display the adverse relationship in younger adults, according to the letter.

A new study has found that a high body mass index (BMI) during adolescence may be a significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes (T2D), early myocardial infarction (MI), and overall worse health in young adulthood regardless of BMI, according to a recent research letter published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The researchers analyzed the BMI z-scores, or relative weight adjusted for a child’s age and sex, of 12,300 adolescents with 24 years of follow-up data through the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. The patients were between 11 and 18 years of age, with 51.4% being female. The analyses were adjusted to control for race and ethnicity, sex, age, education, household income, and tobacco and alcohol use, and all results were self-reported, according to the study authors.

The results showed that a higher BMI in adolescence was linked with a 2.6% increase in overall poor health, as well as an 8.8% greater risk for T2D and 0.8% increased risk for early MI in adults in their 30s and 40s, separate of what their adult BMI was. This study was among the first to display the adverse relationship in younger adults, according to the letter.

"The finding that adolescent BMI is a risk factor for poor health outcomes in adulthood, regardless of adult BMI, has significant implications for our understanding of cardiovascular disease onset," said study lead Jason M. Nagata, MD, MSc, in the press release. "Considering these findings, health care providers should consider BMI history when assessing for cardiovascular and chronic disease risk."

These findings support the proposition that both age of obesity onset and cumulative obesity exposure add to insulin resistance and atherosclerosis. More guidance and support from health care providers is the best way to fight these poor health outcomes, according to the researchers.

"Our study suggests that adolescence is an important time period to optimize health and prevent early heart attacks,” Nagata said in the press release. “Pediatricians should encourage teens to develop healthy behaviors including physical activity and balanced meals.”


Childhood BMI May Influence Poorer Health Outcomes in Adulthood. American College of Cardiology. Published June 21, 2021. Accessed June 22, 2021.

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