Dreaded middle-aged spread is getting WORSE

Dreaded middle-aged spread is getting WORSE: Today’s generations are fatter than ever with BMI increasing early in life and rising more sharply, study warns

  • Researchers looked at the BMI of 65,000 people to see how weight has changed
  • People are getting heavier at a younger age now compared to past generations  

The dreaded middle-age spread is now affecting more people and coming at a younger age than ever before, a study has found.  

Data from 65,000 people in four studies was collated and revealed modern people are getting fatter in their 40s and 50s compared to past generations. 

Researchers from the US say understanding BMI changes gain throughout life is key to preventing rapid weight gain at key points in a person’s life, such as adolescence.  

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The dreaded middle-age spread is now affecting more people and coming at a younger age than ever before, a study has found (stock)

Pictured, a graph showing the change to a person’s BMI as they age. Each coloured line shows  how the BMI of an age group alters depending on when they were born. On average, BMI increases in more recent cohorts 

Scientists divided all the participants into 17 groups based on when they were born, with each cohort spanning five years dating back to before 1905. 

Analysis revealed that each group had a higher average BMI than the people born in the previous window. 

There was also a steeper rise in BMI as people got older when compared to their elders. 

For example, for people born between 1955 and 1959, the average BMI between the ages of 20 and 29 was 24.4, a healthy weight. 

This then increased steadily and the average BMI was obese (more than 30) when they were aged between 50 and 59. 

A woman’s risk of experiencing consecutive miscarriages increases by 70 per cent if they are clinically obese rather than of a healthy weight.

Researchers conducted a review into various existing studies on recurrent pregnancy loss, as to explore what lifestyle factors might be involved.

People who are overweight or underweight — that is, have a body mass index (BMI) between 25–30 or under 18.5, respectively — are also at increased risk.

Miscarriage is the most common complication of early pregnancy, and sadly affects around 15–20 per cent of expectant mothers.

Recurrent pregnancy loss, meanwhile, is defined as when a women has two or more consecutive early miscarriages.

It is a complex disease and — although often attributed to numerous medical factors and lifestyle influences — remains unexplained in around half of all cases. 

But for people born between 1960 and 1964, the average BMI was overweight — higher than 25 — in their 20s. By the time they were in their 40s, they were obese.  

For people born between 1980 and 1984, they were of healthy weight as teens, overweight in their 20s, and obese in their 30s, on average. 

‘We found higher mean levels of and larger increases in BMI with age across more recent birth cohorts as compared with earlier-born cohorts,’ the researchers write in their study. 

They also found racial disparities in BMI as people age, with white women having a lower BMI than black and hispanic women. 

A similar pattern was seen for men, but with less difference between races.

‘Black and hispanic excesses in BMI compared with Whites were present early in life and persisted at all ages, and, in the case of Black– White disparities, were of larger magnitude for more recent cohorts,’ the researchers add in their paper, published in PNAS. 

Data also revealed that people who were educated to a higher level had lower BMI, on average. 

The findings may inform strategies to prevent rapid weight gain during the critical window of adolescence and young adulthood, reduce racial and education-based disparities in obesity, and ultimately improve health outcomes at all ages, according to the authors.

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