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Epidemiology and Population Health

Tracking of body mass index from 7 to 69 years of age

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Abstract

Background:

Heavy children have an increased risk of being overweight young adults. Whether this risk remains in late adulthood is not well-understood. We investigated body mass index (BMI; kg m−2) tracking from childhood to late adulthood.

Methods:

From the Copenhagen School Health Records Register, 72 959 men and 25 252 women born between 1930 and 1989 with BMI values at 7 and/or 13 years and as adults were included. Using a meta-regression approach, age- and sex-specific partial correlation analyses and logistic regressions were performed.

Results:

Correlations between BMI at 7 years and young adult ages (18–19 years) were r=0.55 for men and r=0.55 for women. At late ages (60–69 years) these were r=0.28 for men and r=0.26 for women. The correlations did not differ by birth years. Compared with normal-weight 7-year-olds, overweight children had a higher odds of overweight at 18–19 years; odds ratio (OR)=14.02 (95% confidence interval (CI): 12.14–16.19) for men and 10.46 (95% CI: 4.82–22.70) for women. At ages 60–69 years ORs were 5.46 (95% CI: 0.95–31.36) for men and 1.61 (95% CI: 0.83–3.15) for women. Correlations and ORs were stronger at age 13 years than age 7 years as expected, but the overall patterns were similar.

Conclusions:

BMI tracking was weaker at late adult ages than at young adult ages. Although BMI tracks across the life course, childhood BMI is relatively poor at identifying later adult overweight or obesity at ages when chronic diseases generally emerge.

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Acknowledgements

The Copenhagen School Health Records Register has been established in collaboration between the Institute of Preventive Medicine and the Copenhagen City Archives. The Diet, Cancer and Health study was funded by the Danish Cancer Society. We thank M Osler, K Christensen, D Molbo, EL Mortensen, TIA Sørensen who established the Danish Conscription Database. The Copenhagen Aging and Midlife Biobank has been supported by a generous grant from the Velux Foundation (VELUX26145 and 31539). We thank the staff at Department of Public Health and National Research Center for the Working Environment who undertook the data collection. Further thanks to K Avlund+, H Bruunsgaard, NE Fiehn, ÅM Hansen, P Holm-Pedersen, R Lund, EL Mortensen and M Osler who initiated and established the Copenhagen Ageing and Midlife Biobank from 2009–2011. We acknowledge the crucial role of the initiators and steering groups of the Metropolit Cohort, The Copenhagen Perinatal Cohort and The Danish Longitudinal Study on Work Unemployment and Health. We thank K Svalastoga, E Høgh, P Wolf, T Rishøj, G Strande-Sørensen, E Manniche, B Holten, IA Weibull and A Ortmann who established the Metropolit Cohort from 1965 to 1983 and M Osler who is the current principal investigator. The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013)/ERC Grant Agreement (no. 281419, childgrowth2cancer) and from The Danish Council for Independent Research (DFF)|FSS Grant Agreement no. 1331-00218 to Jennifer L Baker.

Author contributions

The authors’ responsibilities were as follows: TIAS and JLB conceived the research; JA, LGB, MGA, TIAS and JLB designed research; JA, MGA and JLB conducted the research; AT, KO, AL, MO, ELM, FG, RL, TIAS and JLB provided databases; JA, MGA, LÄ and JLB analysed data; JA and JLB wrote the paper and had primary responsibility for final content; and all authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Aarestrup, J., Bjerregaard, L., Gamborg, M. et al. Tracking of body mass index from 7 to 69 years of age. Int J Obes 40, 1376–1383 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/ijo.2016.88

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