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Heavy Drinking in Young Adulthood Increases Risk of Transitioning to Obesity

      Introduction

      Heavy episodic alcohol use during young adulthood may contribute to excess weight gain and transition from healthy weight to overweight/obesity. This study is the first to evaluate the association between heavy episodic drinking during early adulthood and transition to overweight/obese status 5 years later using data from the U.S. National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health.

      Methods

      The study used data from Waves III and IV, when participants were aged 18–26 and 24–32 years, respectively. The final sample consisted of 7,941 participants with measured height/weight who reported ever drinking alcohol. Multinomial logistic regression models tested the association between heavy episodic drinking and risk of transitioning to an unhealthy weight class.

      Results

      Heavy episodic drinking was associated with 41% higher risk of transitioning from normal weight to overweight (relative risk ratio, 1.41; 95% CI=1.13, 1.74; p=0.002) and 36% higher risk of transitioning from overweight to obese by Wave IV (relative risk ratio, 1.36; 95% CI=1.09, 1.71; p=0.008), compared with individuals not drinking heavily, while accounting for covariates. Heavy episodic drinking was associated with 35% higher risk of maintaining obesity (relative risk ratio, 1.35; CI=1.06, 1.72; p=0.016) and gaining excess weight (OR=1.20, 95% CI=1.03, 1.39, p=0.02).

      Conclusions

      Regular heavy episodic drinking in young adulthood is associated with higher risk of gaining excess weight and transitioning to overweight/obesity. Obesity prevention efforts should address heavy drinking as it relates to caloric content and risk of transitioning to an unhealthy weight class.
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