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The prevalence of overweight and obesity is increasing worldwide.1 Epidemiologic studies have identified high body-mass index (BMI, the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters) as a risk factor for an expanding set of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease,2,3 diabetes mellitus, chronic kidney disease,2 many cancers,4 and an array of musculoskeletal disorders.5,6 As the global health community works to develop treatments and prevention policies to address obesity, timely information about levels of high BMI and health effects at the population level is needed.
In recent years, increasing efforts have been made to assess the trends in BMI within and across nations.7,8 Other studies have quantified the potential effects of high BMI on a variety of health outcomes.2,4 These efforts, while useful, did not consider the relationship of high BMI with broader socioeconomic development; they also excluded many data sources, focused exclusively on adults, inadequately captured the skewed distribution of BMI, did not capture emerging evidence on additional outcomes, and did not assess the effect of epidemiologic and demographic transition on disease burden. The BMI that is associated with the lowest risk of death has also been questioned.9,10/.../