Health news

Excess waist circumference raises risks of death

Waist size and mortality
© Thinkstock

Keeping a slim waist isn’t a purely aesthetic matter. It’s also a health question, as evidenced by a study recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, which revealed that an excessive waist circumference (WC) increased the risk of death irrespective of causes.

It has been known for several years that excess fat around the waist is far more harmful than excess weight in the thigh area. Fat in the abdominal region raises chances of hypercholesterolemia, cardiovascular diseases and is partly responsible for the development of inflammatory diseases. Abdominal adiposity also results in insulin resistance (IR), a condition preceding the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Eric J. Jacobs and his colleagues of the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, Georgia, explored the links between waist girth and the risk of death in 48,500 men and 56,343 women aged 50 and over.

After adjusting for differences in body mass index (BMI = weight to square height ratio) and other risk factors, it turned out that a waist circumference above 120 cm in men and 110 cm in women doubled the risk of death for all BMIs, whether in the normal range or in the overweight and obese categories. In female patients, the correlation was even more evident in those with a normal BMI, although no scientific explanation has yet been advanced.

The researchers are hopeful that their work will encourage inclusion in obesity-related health policies of specific recommendations for normal-weight patients without known cardiovascular risks but whose waist circumference exceeds 88 cm for women and 102 cm for men.  

"Waist Circumference and All-Cause Mortality in a Large US Cohort", Archives of Internal Medicine, 2010; vol. 170 (15): 1 293-1 30

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