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Prospective cohort study of overweight and obesity among rural Indian adults: sociodemographic predictors of prevalence, incidence and remission
  1. Rajesh Kumar Rai1,
  2. Lindsay M Jaacks2,
  3. Sabri Bromage3,
  4. Anamitra Barik1,4,
  5. Wafaie W Fawzi2,3,5,
  6. Abhijit Chowdhury1,6
  1. 1 Society for Health and Demographic Surveillance, Birbhum, West Bengal, India
  2. 2 Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3 Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  4. 4 Suri District Hospital and Niramoy TB Sanatorium, Birbhum, West Bengal, India
  5. 5 Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  6. 6 Department of Hepatology, School of Digestive and Liver Diseases, Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
  1. Correspondence to Rajesh Kumar Rai; rajesh.iips28{at}


Objectives To assess sociodemographic predictors of prevalence, incidence and remission of overweight including obesity among adults (aged ≥18 years) in rural Eastern India.

Design Prospective cohort study.

Setting Birbhum Health and Demographic Surveillance System, West Bengal, India.

Participants Self-weighted sample of 24 115 adults (men: 10915, women: 13200) enrolled in 2008 were followed up for body mass index (BMI) reassessment in 2017.

Primary and secondary outcome measures Measured BMI was categorised as: underweight (<18.5 kg/m2), normal weight (18.5–22.9 kg/m2) and overweight including obesity (≥23 kg/m2; hereinafter overweight). Incident overweight was defined as transition from normal weight in 2008 to overweight in 2017, whereas if overweight individuals in 2008 measured normal BMI in 2017, it was classified as remission from overweight.

Results In 2008, 10.1% of men and 14.6% of women were overweight, whereas 17.3% of men and 24.7% of women were overweight in 2017. At the same time, in 2017, 35.6% of men and 33.3% of women were underweight. Incident overweight was 19.0% among men and 27.2% among women, whereas remission among men was higher (15.4%) than women (11.5%). Women were more likely to be overweight in 2008 and to experience incident overweight than men. For men and women, education level and wealth were positively associated with prevalence and incidence of overweight. Remission from overweight was less likely in Sainthia, a business hub in the district, as compared with Mohammad Bazar, a more rural area.

Conclusion A nutrition transition to higher risk of overweight is evident in this rural setting in India, especially among women and individuals with high socioeconomic status. At the same time, a high prevalence of underweight persists, resulting in a significant double burden. Culturally sensitive interventions that address both ends of the malnutrition spectrum should be prioritised.

  • BMI
  • overweight
  • obesity
  • prospective cohort study
  • nutritional epidemiology

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  • Contributors RKR and WWF conceived and designed the study. RKR performed the analysis and prepared the first draft. LMJ, SB, AB, WWF and AC critically reviewed results and advised in revising analysis. All authors contributed in revising and finalising the report. All authors approved the study.

  • Funding This work was supported by the West Bengal State Department of Health and Family Welfare, India (Memo no: HF/O/MERT/1464/HSL (MISC)–35/2008).

  • Competing interests SB reports a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval was obtained from the institutional ethics review board (IERB) of Birbhum Health and Demographic Surveillance System (BHDSS), appointed by the chairperson of the Society for Health and Demographic Surveillance (SHDS). All participants provided written informed consent. More about IERB could be obtained from SHDS’s website:

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement The dataset analysed during the current study is available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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