Obese adolescents probably will become severely obese adults

January 5, 2011

Obese adolescents are at substantially higher risk for severe obesity in adulthood (body mass index [BMI], 40 kg/m2 or greater) than normal-weight or overweight adolescents.

Obese adolescents are at substantially higher risk for severe obesity in adulthood (body mass index [BMI], 40 kg/m2 or greater) than normal-weight or overweight adolescents. Therefore, interventions are needed before adulthood to prevent the progression of obesity to severe obesity and reduce its potentially life-threatening consequences.

The and associates monitored the progression of obesity in 8834 adolescents as they matured into adults. They obtained height and weight data and derived the BMI for age and sex according to national growth charts. New cases of adult-onset severe obesity were calculated by sex, ethnicity, and adolescent weight status.

Over 13 years, 703 incident cases of severe obesity in adulthood were observed (total incidence rate, 7.9%). Persons with incident severe obesity in adulthood had a higher adolescent BMI, were older, and were more likely to be racial or ethnic minorities than those without severe obesity. Among persons who were obese as adolescents, incident severe obesity was 37.1% in men and 51.3% in women. Fewer than 5% of persons who were at a normal weight in adolescence became severely obese in adulthood.

The authors noted that the clinical implications of these findings are concerning given the comorbidities and chronic disease that are associated with severe obesity.