Weight change, weight fluctuation, and mortality

Arch Intern Med. 2002 Dec 9-23;162(22):2575-80. doi: 10.1001/archinte.162.22.2575.


Objective: To examine the relation between weight change and weight fluctuation (cycling) and mortality in middle-aged men.

Methods: A prospective study of 5608 men aged 40 to 59 years at screening, drawn from one general practice in each of 24 British towns. Changes in weight observed during a 12- to 14-year period were related to mortality during the subsequent 8 years.

Results: There were 943 deaths from all causes: 458 cardiovascular disease (CVD) and 485 non-CVD deaths. Those with stable weight or weight gain had the lowest total, CVD, and non-CVD mortality. Sustained weight loss or weight fluctuation (loss-gain or gain-loss) showed a significantly higher mortality risk than stable weight even after adjustment for lifestyle variables (relative risk [95% confidence interval], 1.60 [1.32-1.95], 1.50 [1.17-1.91], and 1.63 [1.24-2.14], respectively). Adjustment or exclusion of men with preexisting disease markedly attenuated the increased risk of CVD and total mortality associated with sustained weight loss and weight gain-weight loss. In long-term nonsmokers, any weight loss since screening was associated with an increased risk of mortality, but this was markedly attenuated by adjustment for preexisting disease. Recent ex-smokers showed the most marked increase in mortality associated with sustained weight loss.

Conclusions: The increased mortality in middle-aged men with sustained weight loss and weight fluctuation (cycling) is determined to a major extent by disadvantageous lifestyle factors and preexisting disease. The evidence suggests that weight loss and weight fluctuation (cycling) in these men does not directly increase the risk of death.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight*
  • Cause of Death*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality / trends*
  • Probability
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • United Kingdom
  • Weight Gain*
  • Weight Loss*