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Observational studies suggest obesity is associated with sepsis survival, but these studies are small, fail to adjust for key confounders, measure body mass index at inconsistent time points, and/or use administrative data to define sepsis. To estimate the relationship between body mass index and sepsis mortality using detailed clinical data for case detection and risk adjustment.Retrospective cohort analysis of a large clinical data repository.One-hundred thirty-nine hospitals in the United States.Adult inpatients with sepsis meeting Sepsis-3 criteria.Body mass index in six categories: underweight (body mass index < 18.5 kg/m2), normal weight (body mass index = 18.5–24.9 kg/m2), overweight (body mass index = 25.0–29.9 kg/m2), obese class I (body mass index = 30.0–34.9 kg/m2), obese class II (body mass index = 35.0–39.9 kg/m2), and obese class III (body mass index ≥ 40 kg/m2).Multivariate logistic regression with generalized estimating equations to estimate the effect of body mass index category on short-term mortality (in-hospital death or discharge to hospice) adjusting for patient, infection, and hospital-level factors. Sensitivity analyses were conducted in subgroups of age, gender, Elixhauser comorbidity index, Sequential Organ Failure Assessment quartiles, bacteremic sepsis, and ICU admission.From 2009 to 2015, we identified 55,038 adults with sepsis and assessable body mass index measurements: 6% underweight, 33% normal weight, 28% overweight, and 33% obese. Crude mortality was inversely proportional to body mass index category: underweight (31%), normal weight (24%), overweight (19%), obese class I (16%), obese class II (16%), and obese class III (14%). Compared with normal weight, the adjusted odds ratio (95% CI) of mortality was 1.62 (1.50–1.74) for underweight, 0.73 (0.70–0.77) for overweight, 0.61 (0.57–0.66) for obese class I, 0.61 (0.55–0.67) for obese class II, and 0.65 (0.59–0.71) for obese class III. Results were consistent in sensitivity analyses.In adults with clinically defined sepsis, we demonstrate lower short-term mortality in patients with higher body mass indices compared with those with normal body mass indices (both unadjusted and adjusted analyses) and higher short-term mortality in those with low body mass indices. Understanding how obesity improves survival in sepsis would inform prognostic and therapeutic strategies.