BACKGROUND: Few epidemiological studies have examined the association between dietary trans fatty acids and weight gain, and the evidence remains inconsistent. The main objective of the study was to investigate the prospective association between biomarker of industrial trans fatty acids and change in weight within the large study European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) cohort. METHODS: Baseline plasma fatty acid concentrations were determined in a representative EPIC sample from the 23 participating EPIC centers. A total of 1,945 individuals were followed for a median of 4.9 years to monitor weight change. The association between elaidic acid level and percent change of weight was investigated using a multinomial logistic regression model, adjusted by length of follow-up, age, energy, alcohol, smoking status, physical activity, and region. RESULTS: In women, doubling elaidic acid was associated with a decreased risk of weight loss (odds ratio (OR) = 0.69, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.55-0.88, p = 0.002) and a trend was observed with an increased risk of weight gain during the 5-year follow-up (OR = 1.23, 95% CI = 0.97-1.56, p = 0.082) (p-trend<.0001). In men, a trend was observed for doubling elaidic acid level and risk of weight loss (OR = 0.82, 95% CI = 0.66-1.01, p = 0.062) while no significant association was found with risk of weight gain during the 5-year follow-up (OR = 1.08, 95% CI = 0.88-1.33, p = 0.454). No association was found for saturated and cis-monounsaturated fatty acids. CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that a high intake of industrial trans fatty acids may decrease the risk of weight loss, particularly in women. Prevention of obesity should consider limiting the consumption of highly processed foods, the main source of industrially-produced trans fatty acids.