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Overweight, physical activity, tobacco and alcohol consumption in a cross-sectional random sample of German adults

Mark M Haenle1, Stefan O Brockmann2, Martina Kron3, Ursula Bertling4, Richard A Mason1, Gerald Steinbach5, Bernhard O Boehm1, Wolfgang Koenig6, Peter Kern6, Isolde Piechotowski2, Wolfgang Kratzer1* and the EMIL-Study group

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Internal Medicine I, University Hospital Ulm, Robert-Koch-Str. 8, 89081 Ulm, Germany

2 Baden-Württemberg State Health Office, District Government Stuttgart, Germany

3 Department of Biometry and Medical Documentation, University of Ulm, Ulm, Germany

4 Local Health Department Ravensburg, Leutkirch, Germany

5 Central Department Clinical Chemistry, University Hospital Ulm, Ulm, Germany

6 Department of Internal Medicine II, University Hospital Ulm, University of Ulm, Ulm, Germany

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BMC Public Health 2006, 6:233  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-233

Published: 18 September 2006



There is a current paucity of data on the health behaviour of non-selected populations in Central Europe. Data on health behaviour were collected as part of the EMIL study which investigated the prevalence of infection with Echinococcus multilocularis and other medical conditions in an urban German population.


Participating in the present study were 2,187 adults (1,138 females [52.0%]; 1,049 males [48.0%], age: 18–65 years) taken from a sample of 4,000 persons randomly chosen from an urban population. Data on health behaviour like physical activity, tobacco and alcohol consumption were obtained by means of a questionnaire, documentation of anthropometric data, abdominal ultrasound and blood specimens for assessment of chemical parameters.


The overall rate of participation was 62.8%. Of these, 50.3% of the adults were overweight or obese. The proportion of active tobacco smokers stood at 30.1%. Of those surveyed 38.9% did not participate in any physical activity. Less than 2 hours of leisure time physical activity per week was associated with female sex, higher BMI (Body Mass Index), smoking and no alcohol consumption. Participants consumed on average 12 grams of alcohol per day. Total cholesterol was in 62.0% (>5.2 mmol/l) and triglycerides were elevated in 20.5% (≥ 2.3 mmol/l) of subjects studied. Hepatic steatosis was identified in 27.4% of subjects and showed an association with male sex, higher BMI, higher age, higher total blood cholesterol, lower HDL, higher triglycerides and higher ALT.


This random sample of German urban adults was characterised by a high prevalence of overweight and obesity. This and the pattern of alcohol consumption, smoking and physical activity can be considered to put this group at high risk for associated morbidity and underscore the urgent need for preventive measures aimed at reducing the significantly increased health risk.