Body Mass Index Associated with Deaths from Most Causes

By: Lynsey Downie | @lynzeyz
Sub-edited by: Philippa Strachan (@philippastrac)

A study conducted by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, published in The Lancet on the 30th October found an association between Body Mass Index (BMI) and death risk.

Researchers collected data from various sources such as, anonymous data from the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) and the Office of National Statistics covering 3.6 million peoples’ primary care records and 9% of the UK’s general population.

The data showed that as the participants BMI exceeded the healthy BMI of 20-25 kg/m2, the risk of cardiovascular death increased by 29% and their risk of cancer increased by 13%. Results showed that those overweight (25-30 kg/m2) and obese (>30 kg/m2) had the highest death rates for cancer and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, respiratory disease and liver disease. The study found that overweight men lost on average 4.2 years of their life and overweight women los oft an average 3.5 years of their life compared to those with a healthy BMI. For those with a low BMI (<18.4 kg/m2) there was a significant link between BMI and death rate from cardiovascular, respiratory and liver diseases.

During the study, factors such as age, gender, smoking status, alcohol intake and socioeconomic status were taken into account. Findings from this study could potentially help public health workers understand why those who are underweight and overweight suffer greater health problems. If additional studies were conducted, gathering more data on diet and physical activity will have the potential to advance the understanding of BMI and death rates even further.

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