A new study has found that teenagers that are obese are 16 times more likely to become severely obese adults, compared to teenagers of normal weight. The study classified people weighing approximately 100 pounds more than their ideal body weight.
The research was led by Penny Gordon-Larsen, an associate professor of nutrition at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Ms. Gordon-Larsen said that the research stemmed from a concern "that obesity and severe obesity have both increased over time, and during the period from teen to young adult, there's an increased risk for weight gain".
The study underscores the risks of severe obesity, which researchers hope will motivate people to make changes to their lifestyles. "Teens might at least be motivated to maintain their current weight."
Severe obesity, which is a body mass index above 40, is associated with a heightened risk of health complications. These include Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, asthma and arthritis. It can also significantly reduce life expectancy.
The study reviewed data from the US National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which has followed 8,834 people who were aged 12-21 in 1996. The two follow-up periods were in 2001-2 and 2007-9. The percentage of people who were severely obese grew from 1 to 70.5 between 1996 and 2009.
Ms. Gordon-Larsen stresses the importance of intervention early in life, as changes are more easily made at younger ages.