Body-mass index and all-cause mortality: individual-participant-data meta-analysis of 239 prospective studies in four continents


Overweight and obesity are increasing worldwide. To help assess their relevance to mortality in different populations we conducted individual-participant data meta-analyses of prospective studies of body-mass index (BMI), limiting confounding and reverse causality by restricting analyses to never-smokers and excluding pre-existing disease and the first 5 years of follow-up.


Of 10 625 411 participants in Asia, Australia and New Zealand, Europe, and North America from 239 prospective studies (median follow-up 13·7 years, IQR 11·4–14·7), 3 951 455 people in 189 studies were never-smokers without chronic diseases at recruitment who survived 5 years, of whom 385 879 died. The primary analyses are of these deaths, and study, age, and sex adjusted hazard ratios (HRs), relative to BMI 22·5–<25·0 kg/m2.


All-cause mortality was minimal at 20·0–25·0 kg/m2 (HR 1·00, 95% CI 0·98–1·02 for BMI 20·0–<22·5 kg/m2; 1·00, 0·99–1·01 for BMI 22·5–<25·0 kg/m2), and increased significantly both just below this range (1·13, 1·09–1·17 for BMI 18·5–<20·0 kg/m2; 1·51, 1·43–1·59 for BMI 15·0–<18·5) and throughout the overweight range (1·07, 1·07–1·08 for BMI 25·0–<27·5 kg/m2; 1·20, 1·18–1·22 for BMI 27·5–<30·0 kg/m2). The HR for obesity grade 1 (BMI 30·0–<35·0 kg/m2) was 1·45, 95% CI 1·41–1·48; the HR for obesity grade 2 (35·0–<40·0 kg/m2) was 1·94, 1·87–2·01; and the HR for obesity grade 3 (40·0–<60·0 kg/m2) was 2·76, 2·60–2·92. For BMI over 25·0 kg/m2, mortality increased approximately log-linearly with BMI; the HR per 5 kg/m2 units higher BMI was 1·39 (1·34–1·43) in Europe, 1·29 (1·26–1·32) in North America, 1·39 (1·34–1·44) in east Asia, and 1·31 (1·27–1·35) in Australia and New Zealand. This HR per 5 kg/m2 units higher BMI (for BMI over 25 kg/m2) was greater in younger than older people (1·52, 95% CI 1·47–1·56, for BMI measured at 35–49 years vs 1·21, 1·17–1·25, for BMI measured at 70–89 years; pheterogeneity<0·0001), greater in men than women (1·51, 1·46–1·56, vs 1·30, 1·26–1·33; pheterogeneity<0·0001), but similar in studies with self-reported and measured BMI.


The associations of both overweight and obesity with higher all-cause mortality were broadly consistent in four continents. This finding supports strategies to combat the entire spectrum of excess adiposity in many populations.


UK Medical Research Council, British Heart Foundation, National Institute for Health Research, US National Institutes of Health.

Body-Mass Index in 2.3 Million Adolescents and Cardiovascular Death in Adulthood


In light of the worldwide increase in childhood obesity, we examined the association between body-mass index (BMI) in late adolescence and death from cardiovascular causes in adulthood.


We grouped data on BMI, as measured from 1967 through 2010 in 2.3 million Israeli adolescents (mean age, 17.3±0.4 years), according to age- and sex-specific percentiles from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Primary outcomes were the number of deaths attributed to coronary heart disease, stroke, sudden death from an unknown cause, or a combination of all three categories (total cardiovascular causes) by mid-2011. Cox proportional-hazards models were used.


During 42,297,007 person-years of follow-up, 2918 of 32,127 deaths (9.1%) were from cardiovascular causes, including 1497 from coronary heart disease, 528 from stroke, and 893 from sudden death. On multivariable analysis, there was a graded increase in the risk of death from cardiovascular causes and all causes that started among participants in the group that was in the 50th to 74th percentiles of BMI (i.e., within the accepted normal range). Hazard ratios in the obese group (≥95th percentile for BMI), as compared with the reference group in the 5th to 24th percentiles, were 4.9 (95% confidence interval [CI], 3.9 to 6.1) for death from coronary heart disease, 2.6 (95% CI, 1.7 to 4.1) for death from stroke, 2.1 (95% CI, 1.5 to 2.9) for sudden death, and 3.5 (95% CI, 2.9 to 4.1) for death from total cardiovascular causes, after adjustment for sex, age, birth year, sociodemographic characteristics, and height. Hazard ratios for death from cardiovascular causes in the same percentile groups increased from 2.0 (95% CI, 1.1 to 3.9) during follow-up for 0 to 10 years to 4.1 (95% CI, 3.1 to 5.4) during follow-up for 30 to 40 years; during both periods, hazard ratios were consistently high for death from coronary heart disease. Findings persisted in extensive sensitivity analyses.


A BMI in the 50th to 74th percentiles, within the accepted normal range, during adolescence was associated with increased cardiovascular and all-cause mortality during 40 years of follow-up. Overweight and obesity were strongly associated with increased cardiovascular mortality in adulthood. (Funded by the Environment and Health Fund.)

N Engl J Med 2016; 374:2430-2440

Change in Body Mass Index Associated With Lowest Mortality in Denmark, 1976-2013

Importance  Research has shown a U-shaped pattern in the association of body mass index (BMI) with mortality. Although average BMI has increased over time in most countries, the prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors may also be decreasing among obese individuals over time. Thus, the BMI associated with lowest all-cause mortality may have changed.

Objective  To determine whether the BMI value that is associated with the lowest all-cause mortality has increased in the general population over a period of 3 decades.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Three cohorts from the same general population enrolled at different times: the Copenhagen City Heart Study in 1976-1978 (n = 13 704) and 1991-1994 (n = 9482) and the Copenhagen General Population Study in 2003-2013 (n = 97 362). All participants were followed up from inclusion in the studies to November 2014, emigration, or death, whichever came first.

Exposures  For observational studies, BMI was modeled using splines and in categories defined by the World Health Organization. Body mass index was calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Main outcome was all-cause mortality and secondary outcomes were cause-specific mortality.

Results  The number of deaths during follow-up was 10 624 in the 1976-1978 cohort (78% cumulative mortality; mortality rate [MR], 30/1000 person-years [95% CI, 20-46]), 5025 in the 1991-1994 cohort (53%; MR, 16/1000 person-years [95% CI, 9-30]), and 5580 in the 2003-2013 cohort (6%; MR, 4/1000 person-years [95% CI, 1-10]). Except for cancer mortality, the association of BMI with all-cause, cardiovascular, and other mortality was curvilinear (U-shaped). The BMI value that was associated with the lowest all-cause mortality was 23.7 (95% CI, 23.4-24.3) in the 1976-1978 cohort, 24.6 (95% CI, 24.0-26.3) in the 1991-1994 cohort, and 27.0 (95% CI, 26.5-27.6) in the 2003-2013 cohort. The corresponding BMI estimates for cardiovascular mortality were 23.2 (95% CI, 22.6-23.7), 24.0 (95% CI, 23.4-25.0), and 26.4 (95% CI, 24.1-27.4), respectively, and for other mortality, 24.1 (95% CI, 23.5-25.9), 26.8 (95% CI, 26.1-27.9), and 27.8 (95% CI, 27.1-29.6), respectively. The multivariable-adjusted hazard ratios for all-cause mortality for BMI of 30 or more vs BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 were 1.31 (95% CI, 1.23-1.39; MR, 46/1000 person-years [95% CI, 32-66] vs 28/1000 person-years [95% CI, 18-45]) in the 1976-1978 cohort, 1.13 (95% CI, 1.04-1.22; MR, 28/1000 person-years [95% CI, 17-47] vs 15/1000 person-years [95% CI, 7-31]) in the 1991-1994 cohort, and 0.99 (95% CI, 0.92-1.07; MR, 5/1000 person-years [95% CI, 2-12] vs 4/1000 person-years [95% CI, 1-11]) in the 2003-2013 cohort.

Conclusions and Relevance  Among 3 Danish cohorts, the BMI associated with the lowest all-cause mortality increased by 3.3 from cohorts enrolled from 1976-1978 through 2003-2013. Further investigation is needed to understand the reason for this change and its implications.

JAMA. 2016;315(18):1989-1996.

Trajectory of body shape in early and middle life and all cause and cause specific mortality: results from two prospective US cohort studies

Objective To assess body shape trajectories in early and middle life in relation to risk of mortality.

Design Prospective cohort study.

Setting Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study.

Population 80 266 women and 36 622 men who recalled their body shape at ages 5, 10, 20, 30, and 40 years and provided body mass index at age 50, followed from age 60 over a median of 15-16 years for death.

Main outcome measures All cause and cause specific mortality.

Results Using a group based modeling approach, five distinct trajectories of body shape from age 5 to 50 were identified: lean-stable, lean-moderate increase, lean-marked increase, medium-stable/increase, and heavy-stable/increase. The lean-stable group was used as the reference. Among never smokers, the multivariable adjusted hazard ratio for death from any cause was 1.08 (95% confidence interval 1.02 to 1.14) for women and 0.95 (0.88 to 1.03) for men in the lean-moderate increase group, 1.43 (1.33 to 1.54) for women and 1.11 (1.02 to 1.20) for men in the lean-marked increase group, 1.04 (0.97 to 1.12) for women and 1.01 (0.94 to 1.09) for men in the medium-stable/increase group, and 1.64 (1.49 to 1.81) for women and 1.19 (1.08 to 1.32) for men in the heavy-stable/increase group. For cause specific mortality, participants in the heavy-stable/increase group had the highest risk, with a hazard ratio among never smokers of 2.30 (1.88 to 2.81) in women and 1.45 (1.23 to 1.72) in men for cardiovascular disease, 1.37 (1.14 to 1.65) in women and 1.07 (0.89 to 1.30) in men for cancer, and 1.59 (1.38 to 1.82) in women and 1.10 (0.95 to 1.29) in men for other causes. The trajectory-mortality association was generally weaker among ever smokers than among never smokers (for all cause mortality: P for interaction <0.001 in women and 0.06 in men). When participants were classified jointly according to trajectories and history of type 2 diabetes, the increased risk of death associated with heavier body shape trajectories was more pronounced among participants with type 2 diabetes than those without diabetes, and those in the heavy-stable/increase trajectory and with a history of diabetes had the highest risk of death.

Conclusions Using the trajectory approach, we found that heavy body shape from age 5 up to 50, especially the increase in middle life, was associated with higher mortality. In contrast, people who maintained a stably lean body shape had the lowest mortality. These results indicate the importance of weight management across the lifespan.

BMJ 2016;353:i2195

BMI and all cause mortality: systematic review and non-linear dose-response meta-analysis of 230 cohort studies with 3.74 million deaths among 30.3 million participants

Objective To conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies of body mass index (BMI) and the risk of all cause mortality, and to clarify the shape and the nadir of the dose-response curve, and the influence on the results of confounding from smoking, weight loss associated with disease, and preclinical disease.

Data sources PubMed and Embase databases searched up to 23 September 2015.

Study selection Cohort studies that reported adjusted risk estimates for at least three categories of BMI in relation to all cause mortality.

Data synthesis Summary relative risks were calculated with random effects models. Non-linear associations were explored with fractional polynomial models.

Results 230 cohort studies (207 publications) were included. The analysis of never smokers included 53 cohort studies (44 risk estimates) with >738 144 deaths and >9 976 077 participants. The analysis of all participants included 228 cohort studies (198 risk estimates) with >3 744 722 deaths among 30 233 329 participants. The summary relative risk for a 5 unit increment in BMI was 1.18 (95% confidence interval 1.15 to 1.21; I2=95%, n=44) among never smokers, 1.21 (1.18 to 1.25; I2=93%, n=25) among healthy never smokers, 1.27 (1.21 to 1.33; I2=89%, n=11) among healthy never smokers with exclusion of early follow-up, and 1.05 (1.04 to 1.07; I2=97%, n=198) among all participants. There was a J shaped dose-response relation in never smokers (Pnon-linearity <0.001), and the lowest risk was observed at BMI 23-24 in never smokers, 22-23 in healthy never smokers, and 20-22 in studies of never smokers with ≥20 years’ follow-up. In contrast there was a U shaped association between BMI and mortality in analyses with a greater potential for bias including all participants, current, former, or ever smokers, and in studies with a short duration of follow-up (<5 years or <10 years), or with moderate study quality scores.

Conclusion Overweight and obesity is associated with increased risk of all cause mortality and the nadir of the curve was observed at BMI 23-24 among never smokers, 22-23 among healthy never smokers, and 20-22 with longer durations of follow-up. The increased risk of mortality observed in underweight people could at least partly be caused by residual confounding from prediagnostic disease. Lack of exclusion of ever smokers, people with prevalent and preclinical disease, and early follow-up could bias the results towards a more U shaped association.

BMJ 2016;353:i2156