Retinal vessel diameters and obesity: A population-based study in older persons

Jie J. Wang*, Bronwen Taylor, Tien Y. Wong, Brian Chua, Elena Rochtchina, Ronald Klein, Paul Mitchell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

149 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Obesity is linked with large vessel atherosclerosis and diabetes. Its association with microvascular changes is less clear. We investigated the associations among retinal vessel diameters, vessel wall signs, and BMI in an older population. Research Methods and Procedures: Retinal photographs were taken on 3654 persons aged 49+ years at baseline of the Blue Mountains Eye Study in Australia. Arteriolar and venular diameters were measured from digitized retinal photographs of the right eyes. BMI was calculated as weight (kilograms)/height (meters2). Incident obesity was defined in persons with BMI ≤ 30 at baseline but >30 after 5 years. A significant weight gain was defined as an increase in BMI of 2+ SDs (4 or more units) over the 5-year period. Results: At baseline, mean BMI was 26.1 (±4.6) in this population. At 5-year examinations, 177 (10.0% of 1773 at risk) developed incident obesity, and 136 (6.4% of 2143 at risk) had significant weight gain. After adjusting for age, sex, smoking, triglyceride levels, and mean arterial blood pressure, persons with wider retinal venular diameters had a higher risk of incident obesity (odds ratio, 1.8; 95% confidence interval, 1.0 to 3.1, comparing the highest with lowest venular diameter quintiles) and significant weight gain (odds ratio, 1.7; 95% confidence interval, 0.9 to 3.2). These associations were attenuated with further adjustment for baseline BMI. Arteriolar diameter was unrelated with base-line or change in BMI. Discussion: Wider retinal venular diameter is associated with risk of obesity, independent of hypertension, diabetes, lipids, and cigarette smoking. These data may support a role for impaired microvascular function in the course of weight gain.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)206-214
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Arteriole
  • Blue mountains eye study
  • BMI
  • Incidence
  • Venule


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