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Rates of weight change for black and white Americans over a twenty year period


OBJECTIVE: To examine the rate of weight gain over time among Americans by age, gender, and race.

PARTICIPANTS: Scientific sample of 5117 Americans, ages 25–74?y in 1971 followed for 20?y.

RESULTS: Rates of weight gain estimated by mixed effects models are highest among young adults and rates of weight loss are greatest among older adults. The overall shape of the growth curves are similar for men and women, black and white, in terms of both weight gain and weight loss. Rates are also affected by baseline body mass index (BMI=wt in kg/height in m2).

CONCLUSIONS: Americans gain weight until middle age, stabilize, and begin to lose weight near age 60. Weight loss during old age is especially evident for obese Americans. The ability to accurately identify groups with increased risk and target them for obesity prevention will help combat the steady rise of overweight and obesity in America.

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This research was supported in part by grants from the Arthritis Foundation and the Claude Pepper Older Americans Independence Center. We thank Frank Davidoff, MD, Michelle Berlin, MD, MPH, and Judith Fifield, PhD for helpful comments on an earlier draft. We are also grateful for the helpful comments of the anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to T J Sheehan.

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Sheehan, T., DuBrava, S., DeChello, L. et al. Rates of weight change for black and white Americans over a twenty year period. Int J Obes 27, 498–504 (2003).

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  • obesity
  • aging
  • longitudinal studies
  • body mass index
  • weight gain
  • weight loss

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