In addition to body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference, the waist-hip ratio can be used to help predict the risk of death and illness, according to a new study from the University of Minnesota.
In the Iowa Women's Health Study, the research team collected data on waist-hip ratio, waist circumference and BMI and examined the relationship of these factors to death rates and disease incidence in 31,702 women aged 55 to 69. The participants, who did not have cancer, heart disease or diabetes at the beginning of the study and they were followed for 11 to 12 years.
The researchers report that although general obesity did not accurately predict total death rates, abdominal obesity, as measured by waist-hip ratio, showed a positive and independent association with total death rates. The highest risk of dying was in women with a high waist-hip ratio who had a low BMI. The researchers caution that the results do not mean that a high BMI is not hazardous.
Both waist-hip ratio and waist circumference were associated with death due to coronary heart disease. In contrast, only the women who had the highest BMI measures carried an increased risk of dying from heart disease. A high waist-hip ratio, but not waist circumference, was linked to an increased incidence of bone fracture.
The authors conclude that the waist-hip ratio "offers additional prognostic information beyond BMI and waist circumference."
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