BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Increased body mass index (BMI = weight/height2; kg/m2) and weight gain is associated with increased mortality, wherefore weight loss and avoided weight gain should be followed by lower mortality. This is achieved in clinical settings, but in the general population weight loss appears associated with increased mortality, possibly related to the struggles with body weight control (BWC). We investigated whether attitudes to and experiences with BWC in combination with recent changes in body weight influenced long-term mortality among normal weight and overweight individuals.
POPULATION AND METHODS: The study population included 6,740 individuals attending the 3rd cycle in 1991-94 of the Copenhagen City Heart Study, providing information on BMI, educational level, health behaviours, well-being, weight half-a-year earlier, and answers to four BWC questions about caring for body weight, assumed benefit of weight loss, current and past slimming experiences. Participants reporting previous unintended weight loss (> 4 kg during one year) were excluded. Cox regression models estimated the associations of prior changes in BMI and responses to the BWC questions with approximately 22 years all-cause mortality with age as 'time scale'. Participants with normal weight (BMI < 25.0 kg/m2) and overweight (BMI ≥ 25.0 kg/m2) were analysed separately, and stratified by gender and educational level, health behaviours and well-being as co-variables.
RESULTS: Compared with stable weight, weight loss was associated with significantly increased mortality in the normal weight group, but not in the overweight group, and weight gain was not significantly associated with mortality in either group. Participants with normal weight who claimed that it would be good for their health to lose weight or that they were currently trying to lose weight had significantly higher mortality than those denying it. There were no other significant associations with the responses to the BWC questions in either the normal weight or the overweight group. When combining the responses to the BWC questions with the weight changes, using the weight change as either a continuous or categorical variable, there were no significant interaction in their relation to mortality in either the normal weight or the overweight group.
CONCLUSION: Attitudes to and experiences with BWC did not notably modify the association of changes in body weight with mortality in either people with normal weight or people with overweight.