Furthermore, excessive weight loss increased risk among participants who were overweight or obese to start with, and excessive weight gain might increase risk even among participants with low or normal body mass index at baseline.
Nested in the Singapore Chinese Health Study, the researchers used data from 36,338 middle-aged and elderly participants who were able to report weight and height during interviews at both recruitment (1993-1998) and follow-up 1 (1999-2004) surveys, and who had no history of cancer or cardiovascular disease. Weight change was computed as the difference between weights at baseline and the follow-up 1 surveys, after an average of 6 years, and classified as moderate-to-large weight loss (10%), small weight loss (5.1-9.9%), stable weight (±5%), small weight gain (5.1-9.9%) and moderate-to-large weight gain (10%). The participants were followed for mortality through linkage with the Singapore Birth and Death Registry.
The researchers urge caution in the interpretation of the study results, highlighting that information regarding whether the weight loss was intentional and if the weight loss was due to loss of fat or lean mass was not examined in this study. Nevertheless, findings from this Singapore study and studies in other populations suggest that it is prudent to maintain stability in body weight within the non-obese range for middle-aged and elderly populations to reduce risk of mortality.
"The observational nature of our study means we cannot generalize our findings to potential interventions at this point," said Prof Koh. "Further studies are needed to understand the mechanisms underlying the association between weight change and mortality."
At a recent conference on ageing, longevity and health, co-organised by Duke-NUS' Center for Ageing Research and Education (CARE), Prof Koh presented similar findings on weight change and cognitive impairment within the same study population.
Commenting on Prof Koh's study, Assoc Prof Angelique Chan, Executive Director of CARE, noted, "Singapore is among the world's fastest ageing societies, therefore it is critical to build on studies such as these so the government can develop appropriate policies and programs to guide future health outcomes."
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