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Longitudinal study of weight, energy intake and physical activity change across two decades in older Scottish women
  1. Tiffany C Yang1,
  2. Anna A Gryka2,
  3. Lorna S Aucott3,
  4. Garry G Duthie4,
  5. Helen M Macdonald5
  1. 1Department of Health Sciences, University of York, York, UK
  2. 2Department of Obesity Action Scotland, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  3. 3Department of Medical Statistics, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
  4. 4Natural Products Group, Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
  5. 5University of Aberdeen, Health Sciences Building, Aberdeen, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tiffany C Yang, Department of Health Sciences, Seebohm Rowntree Building, University of York, Heslington, York YO10 5DD, UK; tiffany.yang{at}


Background The perimenopausal and postmenopausal periods are times of pronounced physiological change in body mass index (BMI), physical activity and energy intake. Understanding these changes in middle age could contribute to formation of potential public health targets.

Method A longitudinal cohort of 5119 perimenopausal women from the Aberdeen Prospective Osteoporosis Screening Study (APOSS) recruited between 1990 and 1994, with follow-up visits at 1997–1999 and 2009–2011. At each visit, participants were weighed, measured and completed socioeconomic and demographic questionnaires. Participants at the first visit were asked to recall body weights at 20, 30 and 40 years of age. We assessed trends in BMI, physical activity and energy intake across and within visits.

Results Over 2 decades, obesity prevalence doubled from 14% to 28% of the participants, with 69% of participants being categorised as overweight or obese. Greater than 70% of participants gained >5% of their baseline BMI with weight gain occurring across all weight categories. Energy intake and physical activity levels (PALs) did not change during the 2 decades after menopause (p trend=0.06 and 0.11, respectively), but, within the second visit, energy intake increased concomitantly with a decrease in physical activity across increasing quartiles of BMI (p trend <0.001 for all).

Conclusions Overweight and obesity increased by over 50% over the course of 20 years. Weight gain occurred across the adult life course regardless of starting weight. The marked increase in dietary intake and decrease in PALs in middle age suggest a potential critical period for intervention to curb excess weight gain.


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  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it was published Online First. Some of the symbols associated with overweight and obese categories were mistyped and have been corrected. In Figure 1, "Obese >30" was changed to "Obese ≥ 30". Several of the symbols were corrected in the 'Weight category' sub-rows in Table 1. In the "Measurements" section of the paper, > was changed to ≥ in 'and obesity as BMI >30 kg/m2'.

  • Contributors HMM was involved in study design and as the principal investigator; HMM and GGD obtained funding; AAG and TCY drafted the plan for the data analyses, AAG and TCY contributed to, and TCY conducted, analyses; LSA provided statistical support; TCY drafted the manuscript; TCY and HMM had primary responsibility for content; all authors were involved in interpretation and revision of the manuscript and approved the final version. TCY and HMM are guarantors.

  • Funding This work was supported by the Foods Standards Agency and the UK Department of Health (grant number N05086) and the Scottish Funding Council. We are grateful for funding from the Scottish Government's Rural and Environmental Science and Analytical Services (RESAS) Food, Land and People Programme.

  • DisclaimerAny views expressed are the authors' own; none of the funders had a role in design, analysis or writing of the present study.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval All procedures involving human participants were approved by the East of Scotland Research Ethics Service. Written informed consent was obtained from all participants prior to any data collection.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.