Dont Let Diet Slide After Middle Age

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  10/29/2005 12:22:42 AM

News You Can Use For November 2005

Middle-age adults who are now at a healthy weight need to be careful about maintaining energy balance to avoid gaining weight. This is the cautionary note of LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

Taking steps to make sure that the number of calories you consume do not exceed the amount you burn can play a major role in lowering your risk for many chronic health conditions, the nutritionist emphasizes.

Reames’ concern is backed by a new study shows that a vast majority of U.S. adults are at risk of becoming overweight or obese. The large, community-based study found that over 30 years, nine of 10 men and seven of 10 women were overweight or became overweight. In addition, more than one in three were obese or became obese.

The study researchers looked at the short-term and long-term chances of developing overweight and obesity for more than 4,000 white adults who were part of the Framingham Heart Study. The participants, ages 30 to 59, were followed for 30 years, from 1971 to 2001.

Body mass index (BMI) was used to determine weight status. BMI is a standard measure of weight relative to height and is an indicator of total body fat. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2 is considered a normal, or healthy, weight for adults. Overweight is a BMI of 25 to 29.9 kg/m2, and obesity is a BMI of 30 kg/m2 or higher.

Making it to middle age without extra pounds was no guarantee for staying at a healthy weight, even in the short term. About one in five women and one in four men who were at a healthy BMI at a routine examination became overweight after four years. Among those who were overweight, 16 percent to 23 percent of women and 12 percent to 13 percent of men became obese within four years.

Overweight increases the likelihood of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, stroke, breathing problems such as asthma and sleep apnea, some cancers, osteoarthritis and gall bladder disease. Obesity is associated with these conditions as well as with early death.

Research has shown that even a small weight loss (just 10 percent of body weight) can help people who are overweight or obese lower their risk of developing many of these conditions.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 65 percent of U.S. adults age 20 years and older are either overweight or obese, and approximately 30 percent of adults are obese.

Framingham participants were white, and other studies have shown that Hispanic and black individuals, especially women, have a greater prevalence of excess weight compared to their white counterparts.

The results appear in the October 4, 2005, issue of the "Annals of Internal Medicine." The study was supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The LSU AgCenter Portions Healthy Weight Program provides current, research-based information and recommendations to help Louisiana citizens achieve and maintain a healthy weight by setting realistic goals for better health and learning to balance the food they eat with appropriate physical activity. For additional information about the Portions Program, contact the extension agent in your parish.

For information on related family and consumer topics, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter homepage, at


On the Internet: LSU AgCenter:

Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3929, or breames@agcenter.lsu

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