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Am J Clin Nutr. 1992 Jul;56(1):14-8.

Body mass index from childhood to middle age: a 50-y follow-up.

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  • 1School of Nutrition and Medical School, Tufts University, Medford, MA.


The tracking of body mass index (BMI) over a 50-y period in a longitudinal study was examined by using both correlation coefficients and the Foulkes-Davis tracking index. Over the long term, BMIs before maturity were poor predictors of middle-aged BMI status in females but were good predictors in males. The correlation between females' BMI in childhood and their BMIs at two points during middle age (40 and 50 y) was zero; in males it was r = 0.36 and 0.41, respectively. Between-age correlations were high (P less than 0.0001) for both sexes, reflecting stability in BMI over the shorter term (less than or equal to 10 y). The tracking of BMI (with the Foulkes-Davis tracking index) from childhood to middle age was better for males than for females (P less than 0.1). Linear-regression analysis was also used to assess the predictability of relative body size in middle age from earlier measures; BMI in childhood accounted for 0% of the variance in females and 17% in males. We conclude that the prediction of ponderosity in middle age from BMIs early in life is more reliable for males than for females.

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