Differences in weight gain in relation to race, gender, age and education in young adults: The CARDIA study

Gregory L. Burke, Diane E. Bild, Joan E. Hilner, Aaron R. Folsom, Lynne E. Wagenknecht, Stephen Sidney

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112 Scopus citations


Objective. To assess ethnic differences in weight gain in young adults. Design. Five-year weight change was assessed in 4207 young adults initially aged 18-30 years at the CARDIA Study baseline examination (1985-1986). Results. Weight gain was significantly (p < 0.0001) greater in black versus white men (13.2 versus 9.1 lb) and in black versus white women (13.2 versus 7.4 lb). Baseline weight and year-five weight in all race and gender groups were strongly associated, suggesting a high degree of tracking of adiposity during young adulthood. Greater weight gain was noted in participants reporting baseline education of high school or less versus college graduates in black women (14.4 versus 10.0 lb, p < 0.05), white women (10.2 versus 5.2 lb, p < 0.0001) and white men (10.2 versus 7.8 lb, p < 0.001). Significantly greater weight gain was observed in younger (18-24 years) versus older (25-30 years) men, but no age-related difference was seen in women. The racial differences in weight gain remained after adjustment for age and level of education. The above trends were confirmed for other measures of body size, i.e. body mass index and skinfold thickness. Conclusion. These data indicate that young adults are at high risk of weight gain, and that weight gain was greatest among African Americans and among less educated participants. These high-risk groups can be identified and targeted for primary prevention of adult obesity in addition to population wide efforts that will be required to counteract the secular trend of increased obesity observed in US adults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-335
Number of pages9
JournalEthnicity and Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1996


  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Epidemiology
  • Ethnicity
  • Obesity


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