Objectives: To study the relation between changes in body weight and subsequent mortality.
Design: Prospective follow-up study.
Setting: Population study.
Subjects: 6441 men aged 40-59 y at baseline participating in the European cohorts of the Seven Countries Study. The men were divided into groups depending on their weight pattern ascertained from three weight measurements with intervals of 5 years. They were also divided in quartiles according to the degree of weight variability.
Main outcome measures: All-cause and cause-specific mortality during 15 years following the last weight measurement. Deaths occurring during the first 5 years of follow-up were excluded.
Results: Significantly elevated hazard ratios (RR) for death from all causes (RR = 1.3; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.2-1.5), all cardiovascular diseases (RR = 1.2; 95% CI: 1.0-1.5) and other causes (RR = 1.6; 95% CI: 1.2-2.2) were found for men with a decreasing weight compared with men with a constant weight. A fluctuating weight was associated with an increased risk of all cause mortality (RR = 1.2; 95% CI: 1.0-1.4), coronary heart disease (RR = 1.5; 95% CI: 1.0-1.9) and myocardial infarction (RR = 1.5; 95% CI: 1.0-2.2). The group of men with an increasing body weight also had elevated hazard ratios for dying from coronary heart disease and myocardial infarction, but these were only significant when the total 15-year follow-up was analyzed. The risks of dying from all-causes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and other causes were increased in the upper quartile versus the lower quartile of weight variability.
Conclusions: The results of the present study show that a decreasing and a fluctuating body weight are associated with increased mortality. An average increase of 7 kg body weight was associated with an elevated risk of dying from coronary heart disease and myocardial infarction. Lowest mortality in these middle-aged men was found in those who maintained a constant body weight.