Prevalence of normal weight obesity in Switzerland: effect of various definitions

  • Pedro Marques-Vidal
  • Alain Pécoud
  • Daniel Hayoz
  • Fred Paccaud
  • Vincent Mooser
  • Gérard Waeber
  • Peter Vollenweider



Normal weight obesity (NWO) is defined as an excessive body fat associated with a normal body mass index (BMI < 25 kg/m2), but its prevalence in the general population is unknown.

Aim of the study

To assess the prevalence of NWO in Switzerland according to different cut points used to define excess body fat.


Cross-sectional study including 3,213 women and 2,912 men aged 35–75 years. Body fat was assessed by bioelectrical impedance analysis and prevalence of NWO was assessed using four previously published definitions for excess body fat.


Percent body fat increased with age: in men, the values (mean ± SD) were 20.2 ± 5.4, 23.0 ± 5.4, 26.3 ± 5.2 and 28.2 ± 4.6 for age groups 35–44, 45–54, 55–64 and 65–75 years, respectively; the corresponding values for women were 29.9 ± 7.8, 33.1 ± 7.4, 36.7 ± 7.5 and 39.6 ± 6.9. In men, prevalence of NWO was <1% irrespective of the definition used. Conversely, in women, a 1- to 20-fold difference (from 1.4 to 27.8%) in NWO prevalence was found. The prevalence of NWO increased with age when age-independent cut points were used in women, but not in men.


Prevalence of NWO is low in the general population and higher in women than in men. The prevalence is highly dependent on the criteria used to define excess body fat, namely in women. The use of gender- and age-specific cut points to define excess body fat is better than fixed or gender-specific only cut points.


cross-sectional study normal weight obesity prevalence Switzerland 



Pedro Marques-Vidal made the statistical analysis and wrote part of the article. Alain Pécoud, Daniel Hayoz, Fred Paccaud, Vincent Mooser, Gérard Waeber and Peter Vollenweider contributed to the statistical analysis design, wrote part of the article and made major corrections. We also thank Yolande Barreau, Anne-Lise Bastian, Binasa Ramic, Martine Moranville, Martine Baumer, Marcy Sagette, Jeanne Ecoffey and Sylvie Mermoud for data collection. The CoLaus study was supported by research grants from GlaxoSmithKline and from the Faculty of Biology and Medicine of Lausanne, Switzerland.

Conflict of interest

Vincent Mooser is a full-time employee of GlaxoSmithKline. The other authors report no possible conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Spinger 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pedro Marques-Vidal
    • 1
    • 2
  • Alain Pécoud
    • 3
  • Daniel Hayoz
    • 4
  • Fred Paccaud
    • 2
  • Vincent Mooser
    • 5
  • Gérard Waeber
    • 6
  • Peter Vollenweider
    • 6
  1. 1.CardiometCHUVLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (IUMSP)Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois and University of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  3. 3.Medical Outpatient ClinicUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  4. 4.Dept. of MedicineVascular Medicine, CHUVLausanneSwitzerland
  5. 5.Medical GeneticsGlaxoSmithKlinePhiladelphiaUSA
  6. 6.Dept. of MedicineInternal Medicine, CHUVLausanneSwitzerland

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