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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2012 Oct;20(10):2107-12. doi: 10.1038/oby.2012.29. Epub 2012 Feb 8.

BMI trajectories among the severely obese: results from an electronic medical record population.

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  • 1Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research and Policy Program, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.


Epidemiological studies have documented the growing prevalence of severe obesity during the past three decades. The primary goal of this study was to estimate the trajectory of BMI change over 5+ years in a cohort of subjects identified as severely obese (BMI ≥35). We conducted a retrospective cohort study among adults enrolled in Group Health (GH) in Washington State. We tracked 11,735 subjects with at least one BMI measure of 35 or greater in the calendar year 2005 through April 2010. Population averaged BMI trajectories were estimated as a quadratic function of time using a marginal regression model, adjusting for gender and baseline BMI and age. For the average male in GH, the estimated BMI trajectory exhibited a slightly inverted U-shaped pattern and a 0.17 increase in BMI over the sample period. For the average female, the BMI trajectory was slightly U-shaped with BMI decreasing 0.03 units over the sample period. We found a high degree of heterogeneity in the shape of estimated trajectories across baseline characteristics with larger 5-year BMI increases among younger subjects with a lower initial BMI. We conclude that BMI changes over 5 years among individuals classified as severely obese are generally small and consistent with studies documenting BMI changes for individuals in other lower BMI categories. Our results also suggest that once the 35 BMI threshold is reached, individuals will continue to remain severely obese, especially at younger ages.

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