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Body Mass Index Associated With All-Cause Mortality

23 April 2011

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

A high body-mass index (BMI) is associated with increased mortality from cardiovascular disease and certain cancers, but the precise relationship between BMI and all-cause mortality remains uncertain.

A large analysis reported in the December 2, 2010 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine confirms the relationship between being overweight or obese and a greater risk of dying from all causes.

An international team of researchers pooled data from 19 prospective studies totalling 1,462,958 white male and female participants between the ages of 19 and 84.  Body mass index (BMI), calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of their height in meters, was determined for all subjects. The participants were followed for periods that ranged from 7 to 28 years, during which 160,087 deaths occurred.

Upon enrollment, the average BMI was 26.2.  Compared with women whose body mass index was between 22.5 and 24.9, having a BMI of 25 to 29.9 correlated with a 13 percent greater risk of death over the follow-up period.  This risk rose with increasing body mass index categories, with women whose BMI was 40 to 49.9 having 2.5 times the risk of death from all causes than those with a BMI of 22.5 to 24.9.  Risks among men were similar. Although a small risk of death was also observed for those whose BMI was below 20, the authors suggest that the finding was in part caused by pre-existing disease.

To learn more or to calculate your BMI, please visit the following link:

de Gonzalez AB, Phil D, et al. 2010. N Engl J Med 363:2211-9.

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