Relative weight and mortality in U.S. blacks and whites: findings from representative national population samples

Ann Epidemiol. 1997 Aug;7(6):383-95. doi: 10.1016/s1047-2797(97)00044-6.


Purpose: To examine the impact of relative weight on mortality in black and white men and women.

Methods: Two representative national populations samples were used: the NHANES-I Epidemiologic Follow-up Study (NHEFS), and the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The principal analysis focused on 13,242 participants in the NHEFS and 114,954 in the NHIS. Minimum mortality was estimated from both categorical analysis and a logistic model.

Results: Minimum mortality ranged from a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 32 kg/m2. The model-estimated BMI of minimum mortality for NHEFS was 27.1 (24.8-29.4, 95% CI), 26.8 (24.7-28.9, 95% CI), 24.8 (23.8-25.9, 95% CI) and 24.3 (23.2-25.4, 95% CI); for black men, black women, white men and white women, respectively, whereas for NHIS the corresponding values were 30.2 (24.8-35.6, 95% CI) 26.4 (24.2-28.7, 95% CI), 27.1 (25.5-28.7, 95% CI), and 25.6 (24.2-27.0, 95% CI). In all groups the shape of the relative risk curve was virtually identical and a broad range of BMI values in the middle of the distribution was associated with low relative mortality risk. Averaging the results from both surveys, the observed BMI of minimum risk was 3.1 kg/m2 higher in black men and 1.5 kg/m2 higher in black women than in their white counterparts; when adjusted for covariates these differences were only of borderline statistical significance, however.

Conclusions: Because of the wide range of BMI values associated with low risk, and the consistency of the point of the up-turn in risk, group specific definitions of optimal values do not appear to be warranted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Black or African American*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Obesity / mortality*
  • Prevalence
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People*