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Original Contribution
February 15, 2006

Body Weight and Mortality Among Men and Women in China

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Cardiovascular Institute and Fu Wai Hospital of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College, and Chinese National Center for Cardiovascular Disease Control and Research, Beijing, China (Drs Gu, Duan, Wu, and Huang); and Department of Epidemiology (Drs He, Reynolds, J. Chen, and Whelton, and Ms C.-S. Chen), Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and Department of Medicine (Drs He, J. Chen, and Whelton), Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, La.

JAMA. 2006;295(7):776-783. doi:10.1001/jama.295.7.776

Context The effect of underweight and obesity on mortality has not been well characterized in Asian populations.

Objective To examine the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and mortality in Chinese adults.

Design, Setting, and Participants A prospective cohort study in a nationally representative sample of 169 871 Chinese men and women aged 40 years or older. Data on body weight and covariables were obtained at a baseline examination in 1991 using a standard protocol. Follow-up evaluation was conducted in 1999-2000, with a response rate of 93.4% (n = 158 666).

Main Outcome Measures Body mass index and all-cause mortality.

Results After excluding those participants with missing body weight or height values, 154 736 adults were included in the analysis. After adjustment for age, sex, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, education, geographic region (north vs south), and urbanization (urban vs rural), a U-shaped association between BMI and all-cause mortality was observed (P<.001). Using those participants with a BMI of 24.0 to 24.9 as the reference group, the relative risks of all-cause mortality across categories of BMI were 1.65 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.54-1.77) for BMI less than 18.5, 1.31 (95% CI, 1.22-1.41) for BMI 18.5 to 19.9, 1.20 (95% CI, 1.11-1.29) for BMI 20.0 to 20.9, 1.12 (95% CI, 1.04-1.21) for BMI 21.0 to 21.9, 1.11 (95% CI, 1.03-1.20) for BMI 22.0 to 22.9, 1.09 (95% CI, 1.01-1.19) for BMI 23.0 to 23.9, 1.00 (95% CI, 0.92-1.08) for BMI 25.0 to 26.9, 1.15 (95% CI, 1.06-1.24) for BMI 27.0 to 29.9, and 1.29 (95% CI, 1.16-1.42) for BMI 30.0 or more. The U-shaped association existed even after excluding participants who were current or former smokers, heavy alcohol drinkers, or who had prevalent chronic illness at the baseline examination, or who died during the first 3 years of follow-up. A similar association was observed between BMI and mortality from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other causes.

Conclusions Our results indicate that both underweight and obesity were associated with increased mortality in the Chinese adult population. Furthermore, our findings support the use of a single common recommendation for defining overweight and obesity among all racial and ethnic groups.