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The Association between Weight Loss and Increased Longevity: A Review of the Evidence

David F. Williamson, PhD, MS; and Elsie R. Pamuk, PhD, MSW
[+] Article and Author Information

From the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia. Requests for Reprints: David F. Williamson, PhD, MS, Chronic Disease Prevention Branch, Division of Nutrition (K-26), Centers for Disease Control, 4770 Buford Highway, N.E., Atlanta, GA 30341-3724.


Copyright 2004 by the American College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 1993;119(7_Part_2):731-736. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-119-7_Part_2-199310011-00021
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Six published observational epidemiologic studies have reported evidence of reduced mortality rates in persons who have lost weight. In two studies, the reported protective effects of weight loss on mortality could not be justified by the data. In two other studies, weight loss was associated with both increased and decreased longevity in different subgroups. Only one study provided information on whether the weight loss was voluntary, but this study found similar effects of weight loss regardless of volition. These studies provided only limited information on the magnitude of weight loss associated with changes in longevity and no information on the types of methods used to achieve weight loss. Because of difficulties in studying long-term health outcomes related to obesity treatment, randomized, controlled trials are unlikely to provide a practical study design for this issue. Properly designed observational studies will probably provide the most useful information on the effects of voluntary weight loss on longevity.

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