Introduction Few empirical studies have investigated the relation between trade and individual weight status.
Methods We used data from a sample of 81 449 adults from 24 low-and-middle-income countries who took part in the World Health Survey, a population-based survey of adults in 2002–2003, to examine the multilevel association between trade [ie, levels of trade, imports, and foreign direct investment (FDI)] and individual-level weight status.
Results The prevalence of underweight ranged from 2.51% (SE=0.85) in Bosnia-Herzegovina to 34.03% (SE=1.05) in India and the prevalence of overweight ranged from 7.74% (SE=0.69) in India to 49.08% (SE=1.98) in Russia. Marital, economic, and health status were among the most important individual-level predictors of weight. At the macro-level, FDI as a percent of GDP was associated with lower odds of underweight relative to normal weight for rural and urban residents, independently of individual-level covariates and country-level GDP and urbanisation. However, among rural men and women, FDI was positively associated with overweight compared to normal weight; a one unit increase in net inflow of FDI as a percent of GDP was associated with a 15% higher odds of overweight relative to normal weight among rural men (OR=1.15, 95% CI 1.05 to 1.26) and women (OR=1.15, 95% CI 1.07 to 1.23).
Conclusion Trade may be associated with individual weight status.