AVOIDING middle-aged spread dramatically reduces the risk of diabetes, it was revealed.
For every 11lbs that was gained between adulthood to 55, the chances of getting the condition increased by 30 per cent.
The figures mean a weight gain of just over three stone (44lbs) would lead to a 120 per cent increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Piling on the pounds in middle age also heightened the chances of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, premature death and decreased the likelihood of healthy ageing.
The warning comes after a major review of 120,000 adults by US scientists.
Professor Frank Hu, of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in Boston, said: “Our study is the first of its kind to systematically examine the association of weight gain from early to middle adulthood with major health risks later in life.
“The findings indicate that even a modest amount of weight gain may have important health consequences.”
The US study analysed the medical records of men and women between 1976 and 2012. Women recalled their weight at 18 and men at 21 and again at 55.
Data published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed women gained an average of 22lbs between early to middle age and men gained 19lbs.
Compared to those who kept a stable weight – not gaining or losing more than 5lbs – those who put on “moderate amounts” had an increased risk of chronic diseases and premature death and were less likely to score well on assessments of physical and cognitive health.
Each additional 11lbs put on before the age of 55 was associated with a 30 per cent increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, a 14 per cent raised risk of high blood pressure and an eight per cent higher chance of cardiovascular disease.
Professor Yan Zheng, who also worked on the study, added: “These findings may help health professionals counsel patients about the health consequences of weight gain.
“Prevention of weight gain through healthy diets and lifestyle is of paramount importance.”
Dr Ian Campbell, a family GP and obesity expert, said: “For many of us weight gain begins in early adult life, even childhood, and the cumulative effect of years of being slightly overweight means most of us are avoidably increasing our risk of life changing and life-shortening illnesses.
“The message of this study is clear: the time to start controlling our waistline, whatever our age, is now.
“Being a normal weight not only feels better but helps you live longer without debilitating illness.”