Few studies have investigated the prospective associations between diet or drinking patterns and abdominal obesity; we therefore investigated whether food and beverage groups or patterns predicted 6-year changes in waist circumference (WC) and whether these associations were independent of concurrent changes in BMI as a measure of general obesity. The subjects were 2300 middle-aged men and women with repeated measurements of dietary intake, BMI and WC from 1982 to 1993. Intakes from ten food groups and from coffee, tea, wine, beer and spirits were assessed; gender-specific food factors were identified by factor analyses. Multiple linear regression analyses were done before and after adjustment for concurrent changes in BMI. A high intake of potatoes seemed to prevent gain in WC for men, while a high intake of refined bread was associated with gain in WC for women. The association persisted for refined bread, but not for potatoes, after adjustment for concurrent BMI changes. Among women, but not men, high intakes of beer and spirits were associated with gain in WC in both models. A high intake of coffee for women and moderate to high intake of tea for men were associated with gain in WC, but the associations were weakened, especially for women, after adjustment for BMI changes. None of the food factors was associated with WC changes. Based on the present study, we conclude that very few food items and no food patterns seem to predict changes in WC, whereas high intakes of beer and spirits among women, and moderate to high tea intake among men, may promote gain in WC.