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According to most prospective studies, being underweight (BMI<18·5 kg/m2) is associated with significantly higher mortality than being of normal weight, especially among smokers. We aimed to explore in a generally lean population whether being underweight is significantly associated with increased all-cause mortality.
Prospective cohort study.
Korea Medical Insurance Corporation study with 14 years of follow-up.
After excluding deaths within the first 5 years of follow-up (1993–1997) to minimize reverse causation and excluding participants without information about smoking and health status, 94 133 men and 48 496 women aged 35–59 years in 1990 were included.
We documented 5411 (5·7 %) deaths in men and 762 (1·6 %) in women. Among never smokers, hazard ratios (HR) for underweight individuals were not significantly higher than those for normal-weight individuals (BMI=18·5–22·9 kg/m2): HR=0·87 (95 % CI 0·41, 1·84, P=0·72) for underweight men and HR=1·12 (95 % CI 0·76, 1·65, P=0·58) for underweight women. Among ex-smokers, HR=0·86 (95 % CI 0·38, 1·93, P=0·72) for underweight men and HR=3·77 (95 % CI 0·42, 32·29, P=0·24) for underweight women. Among current smokers, HR=1·60 (95 % CI 1·28, 2·01, P<0·001) for underweight men and HR=2·07 (95 % CI 0·43, 9·94, P=0·36) for underweight women.
The present study does not support that being underweight per se is associated with increased all-cause mortality in Korean men and women.
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