Study examines association between weight amount and cause of death

Nov 08, 2007

The association between weight and causes of death can vary considerably, with obesity associated with a significantly increased mortality from cardiovascular disease (CVD), underweight associated with increased mortality from primarily non-cancer, non-CVD causes, and overweight associated with increased mortality from diabetes and kidney disease combined, but with reduced mortality from other non-cancer non-CVD causes of death, according to a study in the November 7 issue of JAMA.

“In a previous study, we estimated excess all-cause mortality associated with underweight, overweight, and obesity in the United States in 2000 using data from national surveys,” the authors write. “We found significantly increased all-cause mortality in the underweight and obese categories and significantly decreased all-cause mortality in the overweight category compared with normal weight. To gain further insight into these findings, we now extend that work, using additional mortality data with longer follow-up, to examine the association of cause-specific mortality with different weight categories among U.S. adults in 2004.”

Katherine M. Flegal, Ph.D., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville, Md., and colleagues estimated the cause-specific excess deaths associated with underweight (body mass index [BMI] less than 18.5), overweight (BMI 25 to less than 30), and obesity (BMI 30 or greater). BMI is calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. The researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) I, 1971-1975; II, 1976-1980; and III, 1988-1994, which was combined with data on BMI and other covariates from NHANES 1999-2002 with underlying cause of death information for 2.3 million adults 25 years and older from 2004 vital statistics data for the United States.

Based on total follow-up, underweight was associated with a significantly increased mortality from noncancer, non-CVD causes (23,455 excess deaths) but not associated with cancer or CVD mortality. Overweight was associated with a significantly decreased mortality from noncancer, non-CVD causes but was not associated with cancer or CVD mortality.

Obesity was associated with a significantly increased mortality from CVD (112,159 excess deaths) but not associated with cancer mortality or with noncancer, non-CVD mortality. In further analyses, overweight and obesity combined were associated with increased mortality from diabetes and kidney disease (61,248 excess deaths) and decreased mortality from other noncancer, non-CVD causes. Obesity was associated with an increased mortality from cancers considered obesity-related (13,839 excess deaths) but not associated with mortality from other cancers. Comparisons across surveys suggested a possible decrease in the association of obesity with CVD mortality over time.

“Some evidence suggests that modestly higher weights may improve survival in a number of circumstances, which may partly explain our findings regarding overweight. Overweight is not strongly associated with increased cancer or CVD risk, but may be associated with improved survival during recovery from adverse conditions, such as infections or medical procedures, and with improved prognosis for some diseases. Such findings may be due to greater nutritional reserves or higher lean body mass associated with overweight,” the authors write.

“… our data indicate that the association of BMI with mortality varies considerably by cause of death. These results help to clarify our earlier findings of excess overall mortality associated with underweight and obesity but not with overweight.”

Source: JAMA and Archives Journals

Explore further: Local enforcement of federal immigration laws affects immigrant Hispanics' healthcare

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Microbiome may have shaped early human populations

1 hour ago

We humans have an exceptional age structure compared to other animals: Our children remain dependent on their parents for an unusually long period and our elderly live an extremely long time after they have ...

Insecticides foster 'toxic' slugs, reduce crop yields

Dec 04, 2014

Insecticides aimed at controlling early-season crop pests, such as soil-dwelling grubs and maggots, can increase slug populations, thus reducing crop yields, according to researchers at Penn State and the ...

Research shows SA koalas with high disease

Nov 25, 2014

University of Adelaide research has shown that South Australian koalas may have a much higher prevalence than thought of the two key infectious diseases threatening koala populations across Australia. The findings have important ...

Computer to simulate harbor porpoises

Nov 24, 2014

Researchers at Aarhus University, Denmark, use a computer model to predict the impact of new offshore wind farms on the population of harbour porpoises in the North Sea. A consortium of international energy ...

Recommended for you

The hunt for botanicals

2 hours ago

Herbal medicine can be a double-edged sword and should be more rigorously investigated for both its beneficial and harmful effects, say researchers writing in a special supplement of Science.

Mozambique decriminalises abortion to stem maternal deaths

3 hours ago

Mozambique has passed a law permitting women to terminate unwanted pregnancies under specified conditions without risking punishment, a move hailed by activists in a country where clandestine abortions account for a large ...

Infertility, surrogacy in India

3 hours ago

Infertility is a growing problem worldwide. A World Health Organization report estimates that 60-to-80 million couples worldwide currently suffer from infertility.

Tooth loss linked to slowing mind and body

16 hours ago

The memory and walking speeds of adults who have lost all of their teeth decline more rapidly than in those who still have some of their own teeth, finds new UCL research.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.