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Diet, obesity and obesogenic trends in two generations of Swedish women

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Secular trends in obesity and related lifestyle factors are reported in two generations of 38- and 50-year old Swedish women. Specifically, we describe changes in obesity and fat patterning, while examining concurrent shifts in factors that are proposed to be causally related to the modern obesity epidemic.


A total of 1,270 women aged 38 or 50 were selected from population registries and examined in 1968/69 (born 1930 or 1918) or 2004/05 (born 1966 or 1954). Anthropometric methods and lifestyle questions were unchanged between earlier and later surveys. Dietary comparisons were based on 24-h recall, with additional questions about usual alcohol and salt consumption patterns. In subgroups, 24-h urinary sodium was determined.


Weight, height, waist circumference, waist-hip ratio, triceps and subscapular skinfold measures were all significantly higher in later-born cohorts, although BMI and obesity were not significantly changed. Higher sodium excretion was observed among later-born sub-groups, consistent with reports of increasing salt preference. Lower proportions of energy as fat and sucrose, but higher carbohydrate, protein and fiber concentrations were reported by later-born cohorts. There were shifts towards increased frequency of wine and liquor consumption, but decreased beer. Leisure time physical activity and perceived stress levels both increased significantly over 36 years.


A number of anthropometric and lifestyle differences between two generations of Swedish women were observed. Increases in subcutaneous and abdominal fatness were detected without significantly increasing BMI. While some aspects of diet showed improvement, increases in salt preference and sodium excretion are cause for concern.

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Funded by the Swedish Council for Working Conditions and Social Research, and the Swedish Research Council.

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Correspondence to Lauren Lissner.

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Lissner, L., Sjöberg, A., Schütze, M. et al. Diet, obesity and obesogenic trends in two generations of Swedish women. Eur J Nutr 47, 424–431 (2008).

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