Rebekah Eliason for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
A new study led by the Mayo Clinic has found big bellies carry larger consequences than difficulty squeezing into pants. Even with a healthy body mass index (BMI), carrying large amounts of weight around the middle is detrimental to health.
According to the study, both men and women with a large waist circumference were at higher risk of dying younger. After accounting for body mass index, they were also more likely to die from heart disease, respiratory problems and cancer along with smoking, alcohol use and physical activity.
By pooling data from eleven different cohort studies, researchers were able to use information from more than 600,000 participants around the world. They discovered that when men had a waist size of 43 inches or more in circumference, they had a 50 percent greater mortality risk then men who had waists smaller than 35 inches. After the age of 40, this means there is approximately a three year lower life expectancy for men with larger waists. For women, those with a waist circumference of 37 or more had an 80 percent greater mortality rate than women who had a waist size of 27 inches or less. This lowers the life expectancy approximately five years after the age of forty.
For every 2 inches of waist circumference, the risk of death increased linearly by about seven percent in men and nine percent in women. Because risk increased across the spectrum, there is not one ideal “cutpoint” for waist circumference.
Interestingly, the researchers discovered that an elevated mortality risk that was correlated to increasing waist circumferences was true for all level of BMI including normal BMI levels. James Cerhan, M.D., Ph.D., Mayo clinic epidemiologist, noted that the large size of the pooled study allowed researchers to clearly show the independent contribution of waist circumference after adjusting for BMI.
“BMI is not a perfect measure,” says Dr. Cerhan. “It doesn’t discriminate lean mass from fat mass, and it also doesn’t say anything about where your weight is located. We worry about that because extra fat in your belly has a metabolic profile that is associated with diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.”
Dr. Cerhan advised that physicians evaluate both BMI and waist circumference when performing risk assessment for obesity-related premature mortality.
“The primary goal should be preventing both a high BMI and a large waist circumference,” Dr. Cerhan says. “For those patients who have a large waist, trimming down even a few inches — through exercise and diet — could have important health benefits.”
This study was published in the March edition of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.