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Weight gain risk is at its greatest from the ages of 18 to 34, study suggests 

Weight gain risk is at its greatest from the ages of 18 to 34… and the chances of becoming obese DECREASE in middle, study suggests

  • Those aged 18 to 34 are the most likely age group to gain weight, study claimed
  • Chances of becoming obese decrease in middle and old ages, researchers say
  • Experts say health officials should target healthy lifestyle advice at young adults
  • Researchers looked at 9million BMIs from over 2million adults from 1998 to 2016










We often hear weight gain attributed to the dreaded middle-aged spread.

But those aged 18 to 34 are in fact more likely to start piling on pounds than any other age group, a study has claimed.

And the chances of becoming overweight or obese steadily decrease in middle and old age, researchers say.

Furthermore, people who are trim at the age of 35 are likely to have developed habits that may help to keep them in good shape for life.

We often hear weight gain attributed to the middle-aged. But those aged 18 to 34 are in fact more likely to start piling on pounds than any other age group, a study claimed (stock image)

Experts from University College London and the University of Cambridge say their findings should encourage health officials to target healthy lifestyle advice at young adults.

They believe this group are the most likely to gain weight because the pressures of starting university, jobs and families may mean they eat more unhealthy food, cut down on exercise or increase their alcohol consumption.

Set your OWN targets to get fit fastest 

Setting your own targets may be key to getting fit and losing weight, a study suggests.

Researchers recruited 500 people from low-income neighbourhoods who were at risk of heart attacks and strokes and gave them each a Fitbit to monitor their activities.

The team found that those who were given a device without any targets to reach took about 300 to 500 extra steps a day, while those who were told to hit 2,000 extra steps a day – managed only 1,200 at most.

On the other hand participants who were told to set their own targets, which they believed would work best and started immediately, did up to 1,900 extra steps a day.

Dr Kevin Volpp, one of the study’s senior researchers, at the University of Pennsylvania, said: ‘Individuals who select their own goals are more likely to be intrinsically motivated to follow through on them.

‘They feel like the goal is theirs.’ 

The study, in JAMA Cardiology, also found that immediately going after your own step target was better than working up to it gradually.

The researchers examined 9 million measurements of body mass index and weight taken from more than 2 million UK adults between 1998 and 2016.

They found that those aged 18 to 24 had the highest risk of becoming overweight or obese over the next decade of their life.

Being a young adult was a bigger risk factor for weight gain than sex, ethnicity, geographic region or socioeconomic background.

People aged 18 to 24 were four times more likely to become overweight or develop obesity over the following ten years than those aged 65 to 74.

They were also up to six times more likely to move to a higher BMI category, such as moving from overweight to obese or obese to severely obese.

The insights have allowed the researchers to produce an online calculator that predicts an individual’s risk of weight gain over the next one, five or ten years for the first time. 

Co-senior author Professor Harry Hemingway, from UCL, said: ‘This study is a myth-buster. Middle-aged spread is nothing compared with the weight gain at a younger age.

‘The idea that people are more likely to put on weight in middle age has persisted for decades because that is the age group that has been the subject of most research.’

He called for more targeted measures, saying: ‘For too long the focus has been on people who are already obese, rather than how to prevent it.’

The authors, whose study was published in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal, said they were surprised that social deprivation was linked to only a small rise in weight gain risk.

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