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. 2010 Dec 2;363(23):2211-9.
doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1000367.

Body-mass Index and Mortality Among 1.46 Million White Adults

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Body-mass Index and Mortality Among 1.46 Million White Adults

Amy Berrington de Gonzalez et al. N Engl J Med. .
Free PMC article

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  • N Engl J Med. 2011 Sep 1;365(9):869


Background: A high body-mass index (BMI, the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters) is associated with increased mortality from cardiovascular disease and certain cancers, but the precise relationship between BMI and all-cause mortality remains uncertain.

Methods: We used Cox regression to estimate hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals for an association between BMI and all-cause mortality, adjusting for age, study, physical activity, alcohol consumption, education, and marital status in pooled data from 19 prospective studies encompassing 1.46 million white adults, 19 to 84 years of age (median, 58).

Results: The median baseline BMI was 26.2. During a median follow-up period of 10 years (range, 5 to 28), 160,087 deaths were identified. Among healthy participants who never smoked, there was a J-shaped relationship between BMI and all-cause mortality. With a BMI of 22.5 to 24.9 as the reference category, hazard ratios among women were 1.47 (95 percent confidence interval [CI], 1.33 to 1.62) for a BMI of 15.0 to 18.4; 1.14 (95% CI, 1.07 to 1.22) for a BMI of 18.5 to 19.9; 1.00 (95% CI, 0.96 to 1.04) for a BMI of 20.0 to 22.4; 1.13 (95% CI, 1.09 to 1.17) for a BMI of 25.0 to 29.9; 1.44 (95% CI, 1.38 to 1.50) for a BMI of 30.0 to 34.9; 1.88 (95% CI, 1.77 to 2.00) for a BMI of 35.0 to 39.9; and 2.51 (95% CI, 2.30 to 2.73) for a BMI of 40.0 to 49.9. In general, the hazard ratios for the men were similar. Hazard ratios for a BMI below 20.0 were attenuated with longer-term follow-up.

Conclusions: In white adults, overweight and obesity (and possibly underweight) are associated with increased all-cause mortality. All-cause mortality is generally lowest with a BMI of 20.0 to 24.9.

Conflict of interest statement

Dr. Sesso reports receiving consulting fees from Iovate Health Sciences USA. No other potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.


Figure 1
Figure 1. Estimated Hazard Ratios for Death from Any Cause According to Body-Mass Index for All Study Participants and for Healthy Subjects Who Never Smoked
Hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals are shown for white women (Panel A) and white men (Panel B). The hazard ratios were calculated with the use of age as the underlying time scale, were stratified by study, and were adjusted for alcohol intake (grams per day), educational level, marital status, and overall physical activity. Subjects were deemed healthy if they had no cancer or heart disease at baseline.

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