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The Shocking Truth About Age-Related Weight Gain: How Much the Average American Puts On

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

three blonde women representing 3 generations of women. It appears that the woman in the middle is in her 20s. The woman to the right is over 65. The woman on the left is in her 40s or 50s.

As we journey through life, it's no secret that our weight can fluctuate. But have you ever wondered how much weight the average person gains over time? A fascinating study from Brigham Young University has shed light on this topic, and the findings are quite intriguing.

The study, conducted with 13,800 Americans aged 36 to 79, reveals that over 50% of participants experienced a 5% or more increase in body weight over the past decade. Astonishingly, 35% gained 10% or more, while a staggering 16% saw a weight gain of 20% or higher. However, what's truly eye-opening is when this weight gain tends to happen.

On average, individuals tend to gain the most weight during their 20s and 30s, with smaller increments in each subsequent decade. As a result, the typical American adult gains a staggering 46.7 pounds over their lifetime.

The study didn't stop there; it also explored differences in weight gain based on gender and racial groups. Notably,

women experienced more significant weight gain, with an average increase of 12 pounds, compared to 6 pounds for men.

This discrepancy can be attributed, in part, to pregnancy, as research indicates that each birth is associated with additional weight gain. Surprisingly, men tended to lose weight from their 60s to 70s, likely due to factors such as muscle loss and increased frailty. In terms of racial groups, Black women showed the highest average weight gain at 19.4 pounds, while Asian men had the lowest average increase at just 2.9 pounds.

It's worth mentioning that the participants' initial body weights were self-reported from memory, which could be a potential limitation. However, the scientists noted that self-reported body weight often proves accurate, even when recalled from 20 to 30 years ago.

So, what can we glean from this study?

First and foremost, it's vital to differentiate between trends in obesity and trends in weight gain. While obesity rates do rise with age, it's primarily because it takes longer to reach the BMI threshold for obesity classification when we're younger. Weight gain actually slows down over time, so it may take several decades to accumulate enough weight to reach that classification.

Moreover, this study emphasizes the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle as we age. While our lifestyles naturally evolve, and some weight gain may occur as a result, it's crucial to take proactive measures to prevent excessive weight gain.

By prioritizing a nutritious diet and staying physically active, we can safeguard ourselves against the pitfalls of age-related weight gain, ensuring a healthier weight throughout our lives.




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