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Int J Obes (Lond). 2016 Sep;40(9):1376-83. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2016.88. Epub 2016 May 11.

Tracking of body mass index from 7 to 69 years of age.

Author information

Institute of Preventive Medicine, Bispebjerg and Frederiksberg Hospital, The Capital Region, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Danish Cancer Society Research Center, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Department of Public Health, Section for Epidemiology, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark.
Research Center for Prevention and Health, The Capital Region, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Department of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Department of Clinical Experimental Research, Rigshospitalet, Glostrup, Denmark.
Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Center for Healthy Aging, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.
The Copenhagen City Heart Study, Bispebjerg University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, Section on Metabolic Genetics, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.



Heavy children have an increased risk of being overweight young adults. Whether this risk remains in late adulthood is not well-understood. We investigated body mass index (BMI; kg m(-2)) tracking from childhood to late adulthood.


From the Copenhagen School Health Records Register, 72 959 men and 25 252 women born between 1930 and 1989 with BMI values at 7 and/or 13 years and as adults were included. Using a meta-regression approach, age- and sex-specific partial correlation analyses and logistic regressions were performed.


Correlations between BMI at 7 years and young adult ages (18-19 years) were r=0.55 for men and r=0.55 for women. At late ages (60-69 years) these were r=0.28 for men and r=0.26 for women. The correlations did not differ by birth years. Compared with normal-weight 7-year-olds, overweight children had a higher odds of overweight at 18-19 years; odds ratio (OR)=14.02 (95% confidence interval (CI): 12.14-16.19) for men and 10.46 (95% CI: 4.82-22.70) for women. At ages 60-69 years ORs were 5.46 (95% CI: 0.95-31.36) for men and 1.61 (95% CI: 0.83-3.15) for women. Correlations and ORs were stronger at age 13 years than age 7 years as expected, but the overall patterns were similar.


BMI tracking was weaker at late adult ages than at young adult ages. Although BMI tracks across the life course, childhood BMI is relatively poor at identifying later adult overweight or obesity at ages when chronic diseases generally emerge.

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