Natural History Of Obesity

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Individuals can become overweight at any age, but this is more common at certain ages. At birth, those who will and those who will not become obese later in life can rarely be distinguished by weight (87), except for the infants of diabetic mothers, for whom the likelihood of obesity later in life is increased (88). Thus, at birth, a large pool of individuals will eventually become overweight, and a smaller group will never become overweight. I have labeled these pools ''preoverweight'' (Fig. 2) and ''never overweight,'' using the NCHS data for prevalence of BMI >25 kg/m2 as the solid line.

Several surveys suggest that one-third of overweight adults become overweight before age 20, and two-thirds do so after that (2). Thus, 75-80% of adults will become overweight at some time. Between 20% and 25% of the population will display their overweight before age 20, and 50% will do so after age 20. Some of these overweight individuals will develop clinically significant

Figure 2 Natural history of overweight. Because many nonoverweight babies become overweight, this group is labeled pre-overweight. About one-third of those who become overweight do so before age 20, and two-thirds do so after. The remainder are not overweight.

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