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PLoS One. 2013 Jul 24;8(7):e70684. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070684. Print 2013.

Overweight in childhood, adolescence and adulthood and cardiovascular risk in later life: pooled analysis of three british birth cohorts.

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Department of Non-communicable Disease Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom.



Overweight and obesity in adulthood are established risk factors for adverse cardiovascular outcomes, but the contribution of overweight in childhood to later cardiovascular risk is less clear. Evidence for a direct effect of childhood overweight would highlight early life as an important target for cardiovascular disease prevention. The aim of this study was to assess whether overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence contribute to excess cardiovascular risk in adults.


Data from three British birth cohorts, born in 1946, 1958 and 1970, were pooled for analysis (nā€Š=ā€Š11,447). Individuals were categorised, based on body mass index (BMI), as being of normal weight or overweight/obese in childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Eight patterns of overweight were defined according to weight status at these three stages. Logistic regression models were fitted to assess the associations of patterns of overweight with self-reported type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and coronary heart disease (CHD) in adulthood (34-53 years). Compared to cohort members who were never overweight, those who were obese in adulthood had increased risk of all outcomes. For type 2 diabetes, the odds ratio was higher for obese adults who were also overweight or obese in childhood and adolescence (OR 12.6; 95% CI 6.6 to 24.0) than for those who were obese in adulthood only (OR 5.5; 95% CI 3.4 to 8.8). There was no such effect of child or adolescent overweight on hypertension. For CHD, there was weak evidence of increased risk among those with overweight in childhood. The main limitations of this study concern the use of self-reported outcomes and the generalisability of findings to contemporary child populations.


Type 2 diabetes and to a lesser extent CHD risk may be affected by overweight at all stages of life, while hypertension risk is associated more strongly with weight status in adulthood.

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