Background: To examine the association of education with body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC) in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC). Method: This study included 141,230 male and 336,637 female EPIC-participants, who were recruited between 1992 and 2000. Education, which was assessed by questionnaire, was classified into four categories; BMI and WC, measured by trained personnel in most participating centers, were modeled as continuous dependent variables. Associations were estimated using multilevel mixed effects linear regression models. Results: Compared with the lowest education level, BMI and WC were significantly lower for all three higher education categories, which was consistent for all countries. Women with university degree had a 2.1 kg/m(2) lower BMI compared with women with lowest education level. For men, a statistically significant, but less pronounced difference was observed (1.3 kg/m(2)). The association between WC and education level was also of greater magnitude for women: compared with the lowest education level, average WC of women was lower by 5.2 cm for women in the highest category. For men the difference was 2.9 cm. Conclusion: In this European cohort, there is an inverse association between higher BMI as well as higher WC and lower education level. Public Health Programs that aim to reduce overweight and obesity should primarily focus on the lower educated population.
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