Background: Recent pooled analyses show an increased risk of death with increasing levels of the body-mass index (BMI, the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters) of 25.0 or higher in populations of European ancestry, a weaker association among East Asians, and no association of an increased BMI with an increased risk of death among South Asians. The limited data available on blacks indicate that the risk of death is increased only at very high levels of BMI (≥35.0).
Methods: We prospectively assessed the relation of both BMI and waist circumference to the risk of death among 51,695 black women with no history of cancer or cardiovascular disease who were 21 to 69 years of age at study enrollment. Our analysis was based on follow-up data from 1995 through 2008 in the Black Women's Health Study. Multivariable proportional-hazards models were used to estimate hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals.
Results: Of 1773 deaths identified during follow-up, 770 occurred among 33,916 women who had never smoked. Among nonsmokers, the risk of death was lowest for a BMI of 20.0 to 24.9. For a BMI above this range, the risk of death increased as the BMI increased. With a BMI of 22.5 to 24.9 as the reference category, multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios were 1.12 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.87 to 1.44) for a BMI of 25.0 to 27.4, 1.31 (95% CI, 1.01 to 1.72) for a BMI of 27.5 to 29.9, 1.27 (95% CI, 0.99 to 1.64) for a BMI of 30.0 to 34.9, 1.51 (95% CI, 1.13 to 2.02) for a BMI of 35.0 to 39.9, and 2.19 (95% CI, 1.62 to 2.95) for a BMI of 40.0 to 49.9 (P<0.001 for trend). A large waist circumference was associated with an increased risk of death from any cause among women with a BMI of less than 30.0.
Conclusions: The risk of death from any cause among black women increased with an increasing BMI of 25.0 or higher, which is similar to the pattern observed among whites. Waist circumference appeared to be associated with an increased risk of death only among nonobese women. (Funded by the National Cancer Institute.).