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Long-term weight retention and associated health risks identified in obese adults

Thursday, 15 April 2021

UK adults who are overweight or obese retain their weight over time, which is linked with an increased risk of health complications and death, according to a new study.

The study, published in BMC Public Health, is led by Dr Barbara Iyen, from the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham.

We have found that despite widespread efforts to prevent and manage obesity, the majority of adults who are overweight or obese in the general population continue to remain so in the long-term. More effective policies and weight-management interventions are needed urgently to address this increasing burden and associated adverse health outcomes.”
Dr Barbara Iyen, from the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham

Researchers at the University of Nottingham investigated the development of body mass index (BMI) over time. The researchers observed a stable increase in BMI scores across four groups of obese and overweight participants over an average of 10.9 years, with most retaining their degree of obesity long-term.

The authors also found that individuals in the highest BMI group had a three-fold higher risk of heart failure and cardiovascular-disease-related death compared to those in the overweight category. Those in the highest BMI category also had a three-fold higher risk of any health-related death compared to those who were overweight.

Participants in the two highest BMI groups did not have an increased risk of stroke or coronary heart disease compared to those who were overweight.

The authors found greater levels of socioeconomic deprivation associated with increasing severity of obesity, confirming the need for policies that include vulnerable and disadvantaged groups to tackle obesity.

The study used patient records on 264,230 individuals, collected from 790 general practices between 1999 and 2018, included in the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink. Participants were divided into four groups, defined by the World Health Organization BMI classifications, as overweight, class-1, class-2 and class-3 obesity.

The authors caution that BMI can vary between sexes and ethnic groups, and body muscle can weigh more than fat giving an incorrect picture of ‘healthy’ weight. However, use of BMI provides routinely available data on weight and weight development that is collected by healthcare professionals.

Data on the physical activity levels and dietary intake of participants was lacking in the study. Further research is needed to establish the factors that contribute to weight retention, such as diet and exercise choices, and how social and public health policies can effectively tackle obesity.

 

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Barbara Iyen from the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham at  Barbara.iyen@nottingham.ac.uk

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The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. Ranked 103rd out of more than 1,000 institutions globally and 18th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings 2022, the University’s state-of-the-art facilities and inclusive and disability sport provision is reflected in its crowning as The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021 Sports University of the Year. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally. Alongside Nottingham Trent University, we lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, a pioneering collaboration which brings together the combined strength and civic missions of Nottingham’s two world-class universities and is working with local communities and partners to aid recovery and renewal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

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