BackgroundResidential density was found to be associated with excess body weight among adults in Western societies but it remains unclear in China. We aimed to explore the relationship between residential density and excess body weight among adults in China.MethodsThis cross-sectional study was conducted in 2017 in urban areas of Nanjing, China. A multi-stage sampling method was used to randomly select participants aged 35–74 years from 8 urban neighborhoods in Nanjing. Status of excess body weight was the outcome variable which was categorized as "yes (BMI≥24)" or "no (BMI<24)" according to specific recommendations for Chinese adults. Residential density was the main explanatory variable which was grouped into tertiles. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence interval (CIs) were calculated to assess the relationship between residential density and excess body weight using mixed-effects regression models after adjusting for age, sex, education, occupation, marital status, redmeat, smoking, physical activity, diabetic status and potential neighborhood-level clustering effect.ResultsA total of 1551 participants were recruited with a response rate of 98.9% (1551/1568). The mean age (standard deviation) of participants was 54.7 (11.1) years, and 46% of them were men. With adjustment for potential influential factors, participants in neighborhoods with lower (OR = 1.38, 95% CI = 1.06–1.81) and middle (OR = 1. 29, 95% CI = 1. 01, 1. 64) tertile of residential density were at significantly higher risk of gaining excess body weight relative to their counterparts in communities with upper tertile of residential density. Such a negative association between residential density and excess body weight was observed for men only after stratified analysis by gender.ConclusionsA negative association between residential density and excess body weight was identified in overall and male urban Chinese adults, and the association was independent of physical activity. Results of our study have important implications in guiding public health policy making regarding prevention of excess body weight at community level via establishment of health-friendly neighborhood environment in China.