||BACKGROUND: Although the prevalence of obesity (body mass index, kg/m(2), BMI ≥30) is higher in non-Hispanic blacks than in non-Hispanic whites, the relation of BMI to total mortality in non-Hispanic blacks is not well defined. PURPOSE: We investigated the association between BMI and total mortality in 16,471 non-Hispanic blacks in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, a prospective cohort of adults aged 50-71 years. METHODS: During an average of 13 years of follow-up, 2,609 deaths were identified using the Social Security Administration Death Master File and the National Death Index. Cox proportional hazard models were used to estimate relative risks and two-sided 95% confidence intervals (CI), adjusting for potential confounders. RESULTS: Among individuals with no history of cancer or heart disease at baseline and had a BMI of 20 or greater, the relative risk for total death was 1.12 (95% CI:1.05, 1.19, for a 5-unit increase in BMI) in men and 1.09 (95% CI:1.03, 1.15) in women. Among never smokers with no history of cancer or heart disease at baseline, relative risks for total death for BMI 25-<30, 30-<35, 35-<40, and 40-50, compared with BMI 20-<25, were 1.27 (95% CI: 0.91, 1.78), 1.56 (95% CI: 1.07, 2.28), 2.48 (95% CI: 1.53, 4.05), and 2.80 (95% CI: 1.46, 5.39), respectively, in men and 0.78 (95% CI: 0.59, 1.04), 1.17 (95% CI: 0.88, 1.57), 1.35 (95% CI: 0.96, 1.90), and 1.93 (95% CI: 1.33, 2.81), respectively, in women. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that overweight is related to an increased risk of death in black men, but not in black women, while obesity is related to an increased risk of death in both black men and women. A large pooled analysis of existing studies is needed to systematically evaluate the association between a wide range of BMIs and total mortality in blacks.