Weight loss in middle to late adulthood linked to early death, study says

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Obesity can lead to a ton of health issues, but losing weight might also present some issues, according to a new report.

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Researchers from Tongji Medical College in China recently conducted a study, published in the British Medical Journal, to explore the association between weight changes across adulthood and mortality.

To do so, they gathered data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, an annual assessment that gauges the health of Americans. The team examined more than 36,000 adults, aged 40 and above, and took note of their weight 10 years ago and at age 25.

After analyzing the results, they found those who remained obese throughout their adult life had the highest risk of premature death. People who put on weight in their mid-20s into middle age were also more likely to die early, compared to those who maintained a healthy weight throughout their life.

However, those who lost weight from middle to late adulthood had a significantly increased mortality risk.

"In the study reported here, stable obesity and weight loss from an obese to a non-obese pattern from middle to late adulthood had a 20% and 30% higher mortality risk respectively," the team wrote.

They noted weight gain in young adulthood and weight loss in middle adulthood were particularly associated with a high risk of death from heart disease. They didn’t find any apparent associations between weight changes and cancer.

The scientists acknowledged they did not evaluate whether weight loss later in life was intentional or not. Unintentional weight loss could be due to diabetes or cancer, they said.

However, they concluded, “the findings imply that maintaining normal weight across adulthood, especially preventing weight gain in early adulthood, is important for preventing premature deaths in later life.”

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