Surprising study links slow adulthood weight gain with living longer

A new study from Ohio State University reports surprising findings: gradually gaining weight throughout adulthood may result in living longer, though there's a catch. The benefit was linked with people who entered adulthood at a normal, healthy weight and who slowly gained weight in moderate amounts, staying out of the 'obese' range.

The new study focused on body mass index (BMI), which is used to categorize individuals based on their height, age, and weight. The link between being overweight/obese and various potential health conditions, including type-2 diabetes and heart disease, is well established by a number of studies.

However, survival may not be so simple as remaining at a steady, normal bodyweight throughout one's life, at least based on the new study. Compared to people who entered adulthood obese and continued to gain weight, those who entered adulthood at a normal weight and slowly gained to the 'overweight' range were found to live longer.

That's not the surprising part, however. The study also found that these individuals who gradually gained a modest amount of weight into later adulthood were likely to live longer compared to people who entered adulthood at a normal weight and remained that way their entire lives.

The researchers also highlight the concerning trend of obesity in younger people, who are gaining weight earlier in life than their parents' generation. Despite medical innovation that increases lifespan for obese adults, study author Hui Zheng said:

Even though the mortality risks associated with obesity trajectories have decreased across the generations, their contributions to population deaths increased from 5.4% in the original cohort to 6.4% in the offspring cohort. That's because more people are in the obesity trajectories in the offspring cohort.