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Eur J Clin Nutr. 2016 Mar;70(3):300-5. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2015.179. Epub 2015 Oct 28.

Changes in body weight and obesity status in German adults: results of seven population-based prospective studies.

Author information

Department of Epidemiology and Health Monitoring, Robert Koch Institute, Berlin, Germany.
Institute of Medical Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Informatics, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Halle (Saale), Germany.
Division of Cancer Epidemiology, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany.
Institute for Nutrition and Food Science, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-University Bonn, Bonn, Germany.
Institute of Epidemiology, Christian-Albrechts University of Kiel, Kiel, Germany.
Institute of Epidemiology II, Helmholtz Center Munich, German Research Center for Environmental Health, Neuherberg, Germany.
German Centre for Diabetes Research (DZD e.V.), Neuherberg, Germany.
Institute for Community Medicine, University Medicine Greifswald, Greifswald, Germany.
German Centre of Cardiovascular Research, Partner Site Greifswald, University Medicine Greifswald, Greifswald, Germany.
Department of Epidemiology, German Institute of Human Nutrition, Potsdam-Rehbrücke, Nuthetal, Germany.



The objective of this study was to quantify body weight changes in German adult populations during the past decades.


Longitudinal analysis of seven cohort studies covering different age ranges between 18 and 83 years. Baseline examinations were between 1994 and 2007 and follow-up durations between 4.0 and 11.9 years. For each study, mean change in body weight per year and 10-year change in body mass index (BMI) classification were analyzed. For the middle age group of 45-64 years, meta-analysis was conducted to obtain an overall estimate for Germany.


Among men weight gain was highest in the youngest participants and decreased with advancing age. Among women weight gain was on a stable high level among those younger than 45 years and decreased at older age. Within 10 years, 30-40% of middle-aged participants with normal baseline weight became pre-obese or obese and 20-25% of those with pre-obesity at baseline became obese, whereas >80% of persons who were obese at baseline remained obese over time. The estimated average weight change in adults aged 45-64 years was 0.25 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.18-0.33) kg/year among men and 0.24 (0.17-0.30) kg/year among women.


We could observe a moderate weight gain over the past years in German middle-aged populations of 0.25 kg/year. Obesity prevention needs to be targeted to specific subgroups in the population, especially to younger adults, who seem to be most vulnerable for gaining weight. Obesity intervention needs to be improved, as the majority of obese adults remained obese over time.

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