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Open Access Research article

Who is maintaining weight in a middle-aged population in Sweden? A longitudinal analysis over 10 years

Anne N Nafziger123*, Kristina Lindvall1, Margareta Norberg1, Hans Stenlund1, Stig Wall1, Paul L Jenkins3, Thomas A Pearson4 and Lars Weinehall15

Author Affiliations

1 Epidemiology and Public Health Sciences, Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Umeå University, Umeå SE-90185, Sweden

2 Ordway Research Institute Drug Development Center, Ordway Research Institute, 1365 Washington Avenue, Suite 201, Albany, NY 12206-1066, USA

3 The Research Institute, Bassett Healthcare, One Atwell Road, Cooperstown, NY 13326-1394, USA

4 Department of Community & Preventive Medicine, 601 Elmwood Avenue, Box 644, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY 14642, USA

5 National Institute of Public Health – Sweden, Stockholm SE-103 52, Sweden

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:108  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-108

Published: 12 June 2007



Obesity has primarily been addressed with interventions to promote weight loss and these have been largely unsuccessful. Primary prevention of obesity through support of weight maintenance may be a preferable strategy although to date this has not been the main focus of public health interventions. The aim of this study is to characterize who is not gaining weight during a 10 year period in Sweden.


Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies were conducted in adults aged 30, 40, 50 and 60 years during the Västerbotten Intervention Programme in Sweden. Height, weight, demographics and selected cardiovascular risk factors were collected on each participant. Prevalences of obesity were calculated for the 40, 50 and 60 year olds from the cross-sectional studies between 1990 and 2004. In the longitudinal study, 10-year non-gain (lost weight or maintained body weight within 3% of baseline weight) or weight gain (≥ 3%) was calculated for individuals aged 30, 40, or 50 years at baseline. A multivariate logistic regression model was built to predict weight non-gain.


There were 82,927 adults included in the cross-sectional studies which had an average annual participation rate of 63%. Prevalence of obesity [body mass index (BMI) in kg/m2 ≥ 30] increased from 9.4% in 1990 to 17.5% in 2004, and 60 year olds had the highest prevalence of obesity. 14,867 adults with a BMI of 18.5–29.9 at baseline participated in the longitudinal surveys which had a participation rate of 74%. 5242 adults (35.3%) were categorized as non-gainers. Older age, being female, classified as overweight by baseline BMI, later survey year, baseline diagnosis of diabetes, and lack of snuff use increased the chances of not gaining weight.


Educational efforts should be broadened to include those adults who are usually considered to be at low risk for weight gain – younger individuals, those of normal body weight, and those without health conditions (e.g. diabetes type 2) and cardiovascular risk factors – as these are the individuals who are least likely to maintain their body weight over a 10 year period. The importance of focusing obesity prevention efforts on such individuals has not been widely recognized.