Oreopoulos A, Padwal R, Kalantar-Zadeh K, Fonarow GS, Norris CM, McAlister FA. Body mass index and mortality in heart failure: a meta-analysis. Am Heart J 2008;156(1):13-22.

Background: In patients with chronic heart failure (CHF), previous studies have reported reduced mortality rates in patients with increased body mass index (BMI). The potentially protective effect of increased BMI in CHF has been termed the obesity paradox or reverse epidemiology. This meta-analysis was conducted to examine the relationship between increased BMI and mortality in patients with CHF.

Methods: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, EMBASE, Scopus, and Web of Science to identify studies with contemporaneous control groups (cohort, case-control, or randomized controlled trials) that examined the effect of obesity on all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. Two reviewers independently assessed studies for inclusion and performed data extraction.

Results: Nine observational studies met final inclusion criteria (total n = 28,209). Mean length of follow-up was 2.7 years. Compared to individuals without elevated BMI levels, both overweight (BMI approximately 25.0-29.9 kg/m(2), RR 0.84, 95% CI 0.79-0.90) and obesity (BMI approximately > or =30 kg/m(2), RR 0.67, 95% CI 0.62-0.73) were associated with lower all-cause mortality. Overweight (RR 0.81, 95% CI 0.72-0.92) and obesity (RR 0.60, 95% CI 0.53-0.69) were also associated with lower cardiovascular mortality. In a risk-adjusted sensitivity analysis, both obesity (adjusted HR 0.88, 95% CI 0.83-0.93) and overweight (adjusted HR 0.93, 95% CI 0.89-0.97) remained protective against mortality.

Conclusions: Overweight and obesity were associated with lower all-cause and cardiovascular mortality rates in patients with CHF and were not associated with increased mortality in any study. There is a need for prospective studies to elucidate mechanisms for this relationship.

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