Having a large waist circumference is detrimental to your health, even if you have a healthy body mass index (BMI), a new international collaborative study led by a Mayo Clinic researcher found. Men and women with large waist circumferences were more likely to die younger, and were more likely to die from illnesses such as heart disease, respiratory problems, and cancer after accounting for body mass index, smoking, alcohol use and physical activity.
The researchers pooled data from 11 different studies, including more than 600,000 people from around the world. They found that men with waists 43 inches or greater in circumference had a 50 percent higher mortality risk than men with waists less than 35 inches, and this translated to about a three-year lower life expectancy after age 40. Women with a waist circumference of 37 inches or greater had about an 80 percent higher mortality risk than women with a waist circumference of 27 inches or less, and this translated to about a five-year lower life expectancy after age 40.
Importantly, risk increased in a linear fashion such that for every 2 inches of greater circumference, mortality risk went up about 7 percent in men and about 9 percent in women. Thus, there was not one natural "cut point" for waist circumference that could be used in the clinic, as risk increased across the spectrum of circumferences.
Another key finding was that elevated mortality risk with increasing waist circumference was observed at all levels of BMI, even among people who had normal BMI levels. Because of the large size of this pooled study, researchers were able to clearly show the independent contribution of waist circumference after accounting for BMI.
"BMI is not a perfect measure," the researcher said. It doesn't discriminate muscle from fat, and it also doesn't indicate where your weight is located. Abdominal fat has is associated with a greater risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Physicians should consider both BMI and waist circumference as part of risk assessment for obesity-related premature mortality.
Do you know your waist to hip ratio? Use my online calulator to find out.
Source: Mayo Clinic Proceedings, March 2014
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.