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

How small businesses got stiffed by the coronavirus pandemic

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The story of American businesses in the coronavirus pandemic is a tale of two markets — one made up of tech firms and online retailers as winners awash in capital, and another of brick-and-mortar mom-and-pop shops that is collapsing.

Why it matters: The coronavirus pandemic has created an environment where losing industries like traditional retail and hospitality as well as a sizable portion of firms owned by women, immigrants and people of color are wiped out and may be gone for good.

Apple's antitrust fight turns Epic

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Millions of angry gamers may soon join the chorus of voices calling for an antitrust crackdown on Apple, as the iPhone giant faces a new lawsuit and PR blitz from Epic Games, maker of mega-hit Fortnite.

Why it matters: Apple is one of several Big Tech firms accused of violating the spirit, if not the letter, of antitrust law. A high-profile lawsuit could become a roadmap for either building a case against tech titans under existing antitrust laws or writing new ones better suited to the digital economy.

Survey: Fears grow about Social Security’s future

Data: AARP survey of 1,441 U.S. adults conducted July 14–27, 2020 a ±3.4% margin of error at the 95% confidence level; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Younger Americans are increasingly concerned that Social Security won't be enough to wholly fall back on once they retire, according to a survey conducted by AARP — in honor of today's 85th anniversary of the program — given first to Axios.

Why it matters: Young people's concerns about financial insecurity once they're on a restricted income are rising — and that generation is worried the program, which currently pays out to 65 million beneficiaries, won't be enough to sustain them.