Changes over time in latent patterns of childhood-to-adulthood BMI development in Great Britain: evidence from three cohorts born in 1946, 1958, and 1970.
BMC medicine 2020 ; 19: 96.
PubMed ID : 33879138
PMCID : PMC8059270
Most studies on secular trends in body mass index (BMI) are cross-sectional and the few longitudinal studies have typically only investigated changes over time in mean BMI trajectories. We aimed to describe how the evolution of the obesity epidemic in Great Britain reflects shifts in the proportion of the population demonstrating different latent patterns of childhood-to-adulthood BMI development.
We used pooled serial BMI data from 25,655 participants in three British cohorts: the 1946 National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD), 1958 National Child Development Study (NCDS), and 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS). Sex-specific growth mixture models captured latent patterns of BMI development between 11 and 42 years. The classes were characterised in terms of their birth cohort composition.
The best models had four classes, broadly similar for both sexes. The 'lowest' class (57% of males; 47% of females) represents the normal weight sub-population, the 'middle' class (16%; 15%) represents the sub-population who likely develop overweight in early/mid-adulthood, and the 'highest' class (6%; 9%) represents those who likely develop obesity in early/mid-adulthood. The remaining class (21%; 29%) reflects a sub-population with rapidly 'increasing' BMI between 11 and 42 years. Both sexes in the 1958 NCDS had greater odds of being in the 'highest' class compared to their peers in the 1946 NSHD but did not have greater odds of being in the 'increasing' class. Conversely, males and females in the 1970 BCS had 2.78 (2.15, 3.60) and 1.87 (1.53, 2.28), respectively, times higher odds of being in the 'increasing' class.
Our results suggest that the obesity epidemic in Great Britain reflects not only an upward shift in BMI trajectories but also a more recent increase in the number of individuals demonstrating more rapid weight gain, from normal weight to overweight, across the second, third, and fourth decades of life.