Increasing and variable BMI in childhood may increase metabolic disease risk later in life, study indicates

News article 11 Mar 2024

Increases and variations in body mass index (BMI) from childhood to adulthood could increase the risk of metabolic syndrome in later life, a new study suggests. 

Results of the study, led by Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and published in eClinicalMedicine, underline the importance of continuous monitoring of elevated BMI in early life to reduce the likelihood of metabolic syndrome and heart disease as an adult.  

Metabolic syndrome is the name for a group of health problems that put you at risk of type 2 diabetes or conditions that affect your heart or blood vessels. 

Research, led by Duolao Wang, Professor of Biostatistics at LSTM and Jianjun Mu, Professor of Cardiology at Xi’an Jiaotong University in China, investigated the association between long-term trajectories and variations in BMI and metabolic syndrome risk in 1824 Chinese individuals from the Hanzhong Adolescent Hypertension study, which logged at least five BMI measurements over a period of 30 years from childhood into adulthood.  

Their statistical analysis found an association between children with a moderate and high BMI whose score increased as they progressed into adulthood, and an increased risk of metabolic syndrome. They also found an elevated risk linked to long-term variability in BMI.  

Professor Wang said: “Our findings indicate that high BMI trajectory and greater BMI variability from childhood to adulthood are associated with a higher risk of metabolic syndrome. This demonstrates how weight management in early life is important in helping to delay the onset of metabolic syndrome and heart disease."