MEYER, H. E., A. J. SØGAARD, A. TVERDAL, and R. M. SELMER. Body mass index and mortality: the influence of physical activity and smoking. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 34, No. 7, pp. 1065–1070, 2002.
Purpose: To study the association between body mass index (BMI) and mortality, and to evaluate the effect of physical activity during leisure time and smoking on this association in a general male population.
Methods: During 1974–1978, all men aged 35–49 yr living in three Norwegian counties were invited to a cardiovascular screening, and 87.1% attended and had their weight and height measured. Men with recognized cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, or cancer at screening were excluded. The cohort (N = 22,304) was followed for an average of 16.3 yr with respect to total and cause-specific mortality.
Results: During follow-up, 1909 men died. We found a J-shaped association between BMI and total mortality, and the form of association was similar for death from cardiovascular diseases. Although not statistically significant, a J-shaped association was also suggested in never-smokers. Irrespective of BMI level, ex- and never-smokers had lower mortality than current smokers. Obese smoking men had a relative risk of dying of 2.01 (95% CI: 1.29–3.11) compared with obese never-smokers, and a relative risk of 4.55 (95% CI: 3.34–6.20) compared with normal weight never-smokers (BMI 22–24.9 kg·m−2). Within each category of physical activity during leisure time, obese men had a similar increased relative risk of death compared with normal-weight individuals. However, the U- to J-shaped association between BMI and mortality seemed to disappear by increasing level of physical activity, but this finding was not significant.
Conclusion: This study suggests a J-shaped association between BMI and total mortality, also when stratified on smoking habits and physical activity. The suggested linear trend in the most physical active men needs to be reassessed.