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Obesity and overweight in relation to disease-specific mortality in men with and without existing coronary heart disease in London: the original Whitehall study


Objective: To examine the relations between obesity or overweight and coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality in men with and without prevalent CHD in a prospective cohort study.

Methods: In the Whitehall study of London-based male government employees, 18 403 middle age men were followed up for a maximum of 35 years having participated in a medical examination in the late 1960s in which weight, height, CHD status, and a range of other social, physiological, and behavioural characteristics were measured.

Results: In age-adjusted analyses of men with baseline CHD there was a modest raised risk in the overweight relative to normal weight groups for all cause mortality (hazard ratio 1.10, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.00 to 1.20) and CHD mortality (1.28, 95% CI 1.11 to 1.47) but not for stroke mortality (1.01, 95% CI 0.73 to 1.40). Mortality was similarly raised in the obese group. While these slopes were much steeper in men who were apparently CHD-free at study induction, the difference in the gradients according to baseline CHD status did not attain significance at conventional levels (p value for interaction ⩾ 0.24). The weight–mortality relations were somewhat attenuated when potential mediating and confounding factors were added to the multivariable models in both men with and men without a history of CHD.

Conclusions: Avoidance of obesity and overweight in adult life in men with and without CHD may reduce their later risk of total and CHD mortality.

  • BMI, body mass index
  • CHD, coronary heart disease
  • CI, confidence interval
  • FEV1, forced expiratory volume in one second
  • ICD, International classification of diseases
  • obesity
  • overweight
  • coronary heart disease
  • mortality
  • cohort study

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