The enigma of increased non-cancer mortality after weight loss in healthy men who are overweight or obese

J Intern Med. 2002 Jul;252(1):70-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2796.2002.01010.x.


Objective: To study effects on non-cancer mortality of observational weight loss in middle-aged men stratified for body mass index (BMI), taking a wide range of possible confounders into account.

Design: Prospective, population based study.

Setting: Male population of Malmö, Sweden.

Participants: In all 5722 men were screened twice with a mean time interval of 6 years in Malmö, southern Sweden. They were classified according to BMI category at baseline (<21, 22-25, overweight: 26-30, and obesity: 30+ kg m(-2)) and weight change category until second screening (weight stable men defined as having a baseline BMI +/- 0.1 kg m(-2) year-1 at follow-up re-screening).

Main outcome measures: Non-cancer mortality calculated from national registers during 16 years of follow-up after the second screening. Data from the first year of follow-up were excluded to avoid bias by mortality caused by subclinical disease at re-screening.

Results: The relative risk (RR; 95% CI) for non-cancer mortality during follow-up was higher in men with decreasing BMI in all subgroups: RR 2.64 (1.46-4.71, baseline BMI <21 kg m(-2)), 1.39 (0.98-1.95, baseline BMI 22-25 kg m(-2)), and 1.71 (1.18-2.47, baseline BMI 26+ kg m(-2)), using BMI-stable men as reference group. Correspondingly, the non-cancer mortality was also higher in men with increasing BMI, but only in the obese group (baseline BMI 26+ kg m(-2)) with RR 1.86 (1.31-2.65). In a subanalysis, nonsmoking obese (30+ kg m(-2)) men with decreased BMI had an increased non-cancer mortality compared with BMI-stable obese men (Fischer's test: P=0.001). The mortality risk for nonsmoking overweight men who increased their BMI compared with BMI-stable men was also significant (P=0.006), but not in corresponding obese men (P=0.094). CONCLUSIONS. Weight loss in self-reported healthy but overweight middle-aged men, without serious disease, is associated with an increased non-cancer mortality, which seems even more pronounced in obese, nonsmoking men, as compared with corresponding but weight-stable men. The explanation for these observational findings is still enigmatic but could hypothetically be because of premature ageing effects causing so-called weight loss of involution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index*
  • Cause of Death*
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity*
  • Population Surveillance*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Registries
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Sweden
  • Weight Loss*