NOV 22, 2022 9:00 AM PST

The Foods and Behaviors Most Associated with Long-Term Weight Gain

WRITTEN BY: Savannah Logan

Obesity is one of the most rapidly growing health issues in America, and the rise in obesity has been linked to health issues including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and more. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine has linked specific dietary and lifestyle behaviors to long-term weight gain in Americans.

The study included over 120,000 American adults who did not have chronic diseases or obesity at the start of the study. Two cohorts were followed between 1986 and 2006 and the third cohort was followed between 1991 and 2003. Every four years, the study authors evaluated the associations between weight changes and lifestyle changes for the participants.

On average, participants gained 3.35 pounds every four years. The dietary factors that were most strongly associated with weight gain over each four-year period were potato chips, potatoes or fries, sugar-sweetened beverages, unprocessed red meat, and processed meat. The dietary factors that were mostly strongly associated with weight loss over each four-year period were vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and yogurt. Among lifestyle factors, physical activity was associated with weight loss, while alcohol use, smoking, television watching, and too much or too little sleep (less than 6 hours or more than 8 hours) were associated with weight gain.

The results of this study are important because weight changes often occur gradually over time, making it difficult to pinpoint the specific dietary or lifestyle factors that may be causing changes in weight. By addressing factors associated with small, long-term changes in weight, Americans may be better able to control their weight and prevent the onset of obesity-related diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Sources: NEJM

About the Author
PhD in Biophysics
Savannah (she/her) is a scientific writer specializing in cardiology at Labroots. Her background is in medical writing with significant experience in obesity, oncology, and infectious diseases. She has conducted research in microbial biophysics, optics, and education. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Oregon.
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