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M. Spencer Green / AP

Gaining weight between the age of 18 and 55 leads to a "significantly elevated" risk of developing major chronic diseases, obesity-related cancers, and early non-traumatic death, according to a new Harvard study published in JAMA Tuesday.

How bad is it? For every 11 pounds gained after 18 years old for women and 21 for men, there is:

  • a 5% greater chance of dying prematurely (if you've never smoked)
  • a 30% increased risk of Type 2 diabetes
  • a 14% greater risk of hypertension
  • an 8% higher risk of cardiovascular disease
  • a 6% increased risk of obesity-related cancer

Study details: The team analyzed health data from 118,140 study participants: 92,837 women (from 1976 to 2012) and 25,303 men (from 1986 and 2012.) People were asked to recall their weight from early adulthood (18 for women and 21 for men) and then report their weight when they turned 55.

After the participants turned 55, the researchers tracked them for incident cases of major chronic disease and mortality. They also tracked "healthy aging," which is the goal of aging without one of the top 11 chronic diseases and showing no major cognitive or physical impairment.

Limitations: One of the study authors, Yan Zheng, told Axios there were three limitations to the study: the participant's weight at the beginning was recalled at a later stage rather than being measured in person at the time; the participants were mostly white professionals; and, the experiment did not include measuring changes in waist circumference.

Outside perspective: William Dietz, director of Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness, told Axios the risk rates from the study could be even higher if the participant pool had been more ethnically diverse.

Dietz, who wrote an editorial on the study, said he would like further research to show the cost benefit of maintaining a stable, healthy weight and to determine the economic consequences for people with obesity. "This may prompt employers to make weight loss a group effort," he said.

Go deeper

Bipartisan group of senators unveil $908 billion COVID stimulus proposal

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) in the Capitol in 2018. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

A bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday proposed a $908 billion coronavirus stimulus package, in one of the few concrete steps toward COVID relief made by Congress in several months.

Why it matters: Recent data shows that the economic recovery is floundering as coronavirus cases surge and hospitals threaten to be overwhelmed heading into what is likely to be a grim winter.

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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Patch, the hyperlocal (and profitable) local digital news company, has built a new software platform called "Patch Labs" that lets local news reporters publish their own newsletters and websites, sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: It follows a growing trend of journalists going solo via newsletters at the national level.

Scoop: Politico stars plot new Playbook

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Three of Politico’s biggest reporting stars plan to launch a competitor to the company’s Politico Playbook franchise, sources tell me. 

Why it matters:  Jake Sherman, Anna Palmer and John Bresnahan will launch a daily newsletter in 2021 as a stand-alone company, the sources say. In effect, they will be competing against the Playbook franchise they helped create and grow.