Defining Targets

Can Health Policies Prevent Weight Gain in Young Adults?

We have a new target, folks. For decades now, the preferred cause has been to prevent childhood obesity. Stitch in time. Ounces of prevention. Innocent children. All that fuzzy imagery was easier for people to buy into than addressing obesity in grownups. Writing in JAMA, Bill Dietz calls for expanding that focus to prevent weight gain in young adults.

A Time of High Risk

Excessive Weight Gain Among Young AdultsDietz is reflecting on data published alongside his editorial that shows a high risk for big weight gain in early adulthood. That risk is especially high for women. One in four will gain more than 44 pounds (20 kg) during this time.

Along with that weight gain comes more risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, many cancers, and severe osteoarthritis. Once established, those chronic diseases, along with obesity, will inflict suffering for a lifetime.

Potentially Preventable

A zippy new infographic lays out the thinking behind this expanded focus quite well. Big life transitions come with adulthood and magnify the risk for weight gain. Marriage, pregnancy, divorce – the list goes on and it’s quite long.

We offer but one caution. The leap from “potentially preventable” to “actually preventable” is quite a big one. Dietz proposes research to find interventions that will work. We can’t just stop with finding possibilities. The devil of the details lies with rigorously testing those possibilities to establish which ones really work.

Without that critical step, we could spin our wheels for decades. Believe it or not, it’s happened before.

Click here for the editorial by Dietz and here for the study of weight gain in early adulthood.

Defining Targets, illustration © Frits Ahlefeldt / flickr

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


August 3, 2017

One Response to “Can Health Policies Prevent Weight Gain in Young Adults?”

  1. August 03, 2017 at 11:19 am, Allen Browne said:

    Yup – and the wheels are still spinning for the kids.