Monday, August 3, 2009

Middle-age spread is dangerous


According to 2 long term studies - the Nurse's Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study- the more weight you gain after the age of 20, the greater your risk of developing certain diseases.

Middle-aged men and women that gained 11-22 lbs after the age of 20 were up to 3 times more likely to develop heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and gallstones compared to those that gained 5 lbs or less, even if they were at a normal weight to begin with.


According to Dr. Walter Willett, the Nurse's Health Study's Principal Investigator and author of Eat, Drink, and be Healthy , adult weight gain or the so-called 'middle-age spread' is "neither inevitable nor innocuous".

4 comments:

Gina said...

Wow, that is scary, very scary. I have to ask, who only gains 5 pounds after the age of 20? That sounds difficult, and almost unbelievable. I wonder how many years they followed these people. Anyway, I have to check this study out, thanks so much for posting about it!

Gina said...

Ok so I am looking at the New York times article and it looks like it says "women who gained less than 11 pounds..." not 5. Am I missing something, or do you think that was a misprint?

Sybil Hebert, RD said...

Hey Gina,

The 5 lbs was taken from Dr. Willett's book (Eat, Drink, and be healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating). I'm not sure if he's combining the result of the Nurse's Health Study (that's the one that's described in the NY Times article) as well as the Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

The Times article states: "...weight gains of even 11 to 18 pounds in adult life resulted in a 25 percent greater chance of suffering or dying of a heart attack compared with that faced by women who gained less than 11 pounds after the age of 18"

whereas Willett, in his book, quotes slightly different numbers (the ones I used): "middle-aged men and women who had gained between 11 and 22 lbs after the age of 20 were up to 3 times as likely to develop...as their counterparts who gained 5lbs or less".

Willett also goes on to explain that in other societies, it's unheard of to gain weight in middle age- ie. Japanese men and women, especially the women, stay the same weight throughout their adult years.

He doesn't agree that it's "normal" to gain weight with age, stating that it is not inevitable...

We know that metabolic rate decreases with age (partly as a result of natural loss of muscle mass) but the weight gain that has been accepted as a result maybe shouldn't be...
According to these long term studies anyways (the Nurse's Health Study has been following 121, 700 nurses since 1976 and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study study has been following 51, 529 men since 1986) this weight gain should be avoided. The people that stayed the same weight during adulthood (as in their 20s) had the lowest risk of disease...

Jme said...

That is an incredible number of people in both of those long term studies. What a wealth of information! Thanks for making us aware. I agree though, 11lbs does not seem like much!