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Am J Epidemiol. 2011 Jan 1;173(1):1-9. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwq341. Epub 2010 Nov 8.

Reverse causation and illness-related weight loss in observational studies of body weight and mortality.

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  • 1National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville, Maryland, USA. kmf2@cdc.gov

Abstract

In studies of weight and mortality, the construct of reverse causation has come to be used to imply that the exposure-outcome relation is biased by weight loss due to preexisting illness. Observed weight-mortality associations are sometimes thought to result from this bias. Evidence for the occurrence of such bias is weak and inconsistent, suggesting that either the analytical methods used have been inadequate or else illness-related weight loss is not an important source of bias. Deleting participants has been the most frequent approach to control possible bias. As implemented, this can lead to deletion of almost 90% of all deaths in a sample and to deletion of more overweight and obese participants than participants with normal or below normal weight. Because it has not been demonstrated that the procedures used to adjust for reverse causation increase validity or have large or systematic effects on relative risks, it is premature to consider reverse causation as an important cause of bias. Further research would be useful to elucidate the potential effects and importance of reverse causation or illness-related weight loss as a source of bias in the observed associations between weight and mortality in cohort studies.

PMID:
21059807
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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