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At what age do normal weight Canadian children become overweight adults? Differences according to sex and metric

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journal contribution
posted on 08.11.2018 by E. Barbour-Tucker, Marta C. Erlandson, Will Johnson, N. Muhajarine, H. Foulds, Adam D.G. Baxter-Jones
Background: The prevalence of overweight and obesity doubles between adolescence and young adulthood. However, the exact age, and appropriate metric to use, to identify when overweight develops is still debated. Aim: To examine the age of onset of overweight by sex and four metrics: body mass index (BMI), fat mass (%FM), waist circumference (WC) and waist-to-height ratio (WHtR). Methods: Between 1991 and 2017, serial measures of body composition, were taken on 237 (108 males) individuals (aged 8 to 40 years of age). Hierarchical random effects models were used to develop growth curves. Curves were compared to BMI, %FM and WC overweight age and sex-specific cut-points. Results: In males the BMI growth curve crossed the cut-point at 22.0 years compared to 23.5 and 26.5 years for WHtR and %FM respectively; WC cut-off were not reached until 36 years. In females the BMI growth curve, crossed the overweight cut-point at 21.5 years compared to 14.2 years for %FM and at 21.9 and 27.5 years for WC and WHtR respectively. Conclusions: Overweight onset occurs during young adulthood with the exception of WC in males. BMI in males and %FM in females were the metric identifying overweight the earliest.


This study was supported in part by funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR; MOP 57671), the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF), Dairy farmers of Canada and the University of Saskatchewan. WJ is supported by a UK Medical Research Council (MRC) New Investigator Research Grant (MR/P023347/1) and acknowledges support from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre, which is a partnership between University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust, Loughborough University, and the University of Leicester.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

Published in

Annals of Human Biology


BARBOUR-TUCKER, E. ... et al., 2018. At what age do normal weight Canadian children become overweight adults? Differences according to sex and metric. Annals of Human Biology, 45 (6-8), pp.478-485.


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This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Annals of Human Biology on 31 January 2019, available online:

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