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Midlife Weight Affects Longevity for Men

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Midlife Weight Affects Longevity for Men

A meta- analysis (statistical analysis that combines the results of multiple scientific studies) was undertaken in 2015(1) to explore the relationship between BMI (Body Mass Index) and mortality in elderly men. This relationship was found to be U-shaped, but importantly could be altered by changes to midlife BMI and change in weight.   The Norway study included 5,240 men and looked at midlife and late life BMI with the following findings:


  • Men who changed their BMI from <25 kg/m2 in midlife to 25–29.9 kg/m2 later in life  had the lowest mortality risk 
  • Men with BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2 in midlife were at highest risk
  • Men with BMI 25–29.9 kg/m2 in midlife that reclassified to <25 kg/m2 actually showed an increased risk, i.e.  older men with normal weight at midlife and a BMI gain after midlife showed a higher survival rate in the 70-80s.
  • Midlife obesity increased risk regardless of subsequent change.

There were several important considerations in the obesity vs. mortality relationship finding of this study:

  • The question of weight stability through life. A dynamic measure of weight using BMI seems to be more predictive of mortality among older adults than a static one.
  • BMI is also only a single measure and may not represent the health condition of the elderly. For example an underweight condition in an elderly person is likely to indicate disease or frailty that may contribute to mortality with weight loss may be the underlying culprit. Consequently body weight in old age may not reflect a man’s earlier weight.  Both earlier and later weights have been shown to independently affect risk.
  • Premature death from all causes was lowest in men with the mid-range of BMIs (22.0 - 27.4 kg/m2), adjustments more were made for age, education, smoking, use of lipid-lowering or medications and disease.


The study suggests that mortality from all causes in older men in their 70-80s is lowest in those with normal BMI in middle age, and who reclassified to the overweight category (BMI 25–29.9 kg/m2) in the course of ageing.  In other words a bit of beef in old age may actually be healthy.

The study used the World Health Organisation categorisation of BMI (see below), which is widely used as the standard for defining normal weight, overweight and obesity.

Key takeaways from the study:

  1. A normal BMI at midlife is associated with a decreased risk of premature mortality after midlife.Midlife body weight can affect survivability later in life
  2. Obesity in midlife increased risk regardless of any subsequent risk.
  3. A full life track BMI may be a better indication of risk of mortality later in life.


So there you have it.  If you are overweight in midlife it is likely you will die younger irrespective of whether you lose weight later in life?  Midlife is the time to clean up your act, not later in life.


What is BMI?

Body Mass Index (BMI) = weight (kg) / height (m)


World Health Organization (WHO) defined BMI-based categories of underweight, normal weight and obesity in 1997, largely based on studies examining morbidity risk in young and middle-aged adults





Principal cut-off points

Additional cut-off points




     Severe thinness



     Moderate thinness

16.00 - 16.99

16.00 - 16.99

     Mild thinness

17.00 - 18.49

17.00 - 18.49

Normal range

18.50 - 24.99

18.50 - 22.99

23.00 - 24.99





25.00 - 29.99

25.00 - 27.49

27.50 - 29.99




          Obese class I

30.00 - 34.99

30.00 - 32.49

32.50 - 34.99

          Obese class II

35.00 - 39.99

35.00 - 37.49

37.50 - 39.99

          Obese class III



Source WHO BMI classification



  1. “Survival in elderly men in relation to midlife and current BMI”.  Ingar holme, Serena Tonstad




Disclaimer: The content of this article and other articles on this website are for informational purposes only and do not constitute professional advice. Please seek advice from a professional in the relevant field, in relation to any specific matter. Refer to the website Terms and Conditions. 



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