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Original research article
Weight change and the risk of incident atrial fibrillation: a systematic review and meta-analysis
  1. Nicholas R Jones,
  2. Kathryn S Taylor,
  3. Clare, J Taylor,
  4. Paul Aveyard
  1. Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Nicholas R Jones, University of Oxford, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Oxford, OX2 6GG; nicholas.jones2{at}


Background The prevalence of obesity is increasing globally and this could partly explain the worldwide increase in the prevalence of atrial fibrillation (AF), as both overweight and obesity are established risk factors. However, the relationship between weight change and risk of incident AF, independent of starting weight, remains uncertain.

Methods MEDLINE, Embase, Pubmed, Web of Science, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects, Trials Register—, CINAHL and the WHO ICTRP were searched from inception to July 2018.

We included randomised controlled trials and cohort studies across all healthcare settings but excluded studies of bariatric surgery. A random effects model was used to calculate pooled hazard ratios. The primary outcome was the risk of incident AF in relation to weight change.

Results Ten studies, including 108 996 people, met our inclusion criteria. For a 5% gain in weight, the incidence of AF increased by 13% (HR 1.13, 95% CI 1.04 to 1.23, I2=70%, n>20 411 in five studies; study size was unknown for one study). A 5% loss in body weight was not associated with a significant change in the incidence of AF (HR 1.04, 95% CI 0.94 to 1.16, I2=73%, n=40 704 in five studies).

Conclusions Weight gain may increase the risk of AF, but there was no clear evidence that non-surgical weight loss altered AF incidence. Strategies to prevent weight gain in the population may reduce the global burden of AF. Given the lack of studies and methodological limitations, further research is needed.

  • Atrial Fibrillation
  • Systemic Review
  • Meta-analysis
  • Obesity
  • Global Disease Patterns

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  • Contributors NJ and PA conceived the original idea for the study. NJ created the search strategy. NJ, PA and KT screened and selected the studies. KT and NJ extracted all data in duplicate and KT led on the data analysis. CT provided input on the background literature and was involved in the critical revision of the manuscript. All authors were involved in drafting the final manuscript.

  • Funding NJ is a general practitioner and Wellcome Trust Doctoral Research Fellow in Primary Care (grant number 203921/Z/16/Z). KT is a medical statistician who receives funding from the NIHR Programme for Applied Research (RP-PG-1210-12003). CT is an academic clinical lecturer, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). PA is an NIHR senior investigator and is funded by the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) and Collaboration for Leadership in Health Research Care (CLAHRC). The project was supported by the NIHR CLAHRC Oxford. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NIHR, NHS or Department of Health.

  • Competing interests CT reports speaker fees from Vifor and Novartis and non-financial support from Roche outside the submitted work. The other authors declare that they have no competing interests.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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