It's not just how much excess fat you have, but where it's located
An extensive research study (1) links waist fat with early death. "The most important result of our study is the finding that not just being overweight, but also the distribution of body fat, affects the risk of premature death," says lead author Tobias Pischon from the German Institute of Human Nutrition.
Death risk increased with waist circumference, regardless of whether the participants were overweight or not. "Our study shows that accumulating excess fat around your middle can put your health at risk even if your weight is normal," he says. "There aren't many simple individual characteristics that can increase a person's risk of premature death to this extent, independent of smoking and drinking."
Researchers examined data on 359,387 European adults over a period of nearly ten years. This was one of the largest, longest health studies in the world - the ongoing European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) health study. During the follow-up period, 14,723 of the study participants died.
Belly Fat is BAD
Excess belly fat has long been associated with an increased risk of heart disease, strokes and diabetes. However, more recent research also suggests a link between abdominal fat and a range of other diseases, including diabetes, some cancers and even age-related dementias.
University of Michigan cardiologist and research scientist Daniel Eitzman commented that belly fat (also known as visceral fat) produces more inflammation than fat found in other parts of the body. Inflammation likely plays a key role in heart disease and a host of other chronic diseases. He said that measurement of waist circumference or waist-to-hip ratio is important for assessing the risk of inflammation-driven diseases.
Pischon and his team used two measures of abdominal obesity - waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio. They discovered that waist circumference and waist-to-hip measurements were a major health and early death predictor, even if you are not overweight. After adjusting for being overweight as measured by body mass index (BMI), they found that:
- Men and women with the largest waists (more than 40 inches / 102 cm for men and 35 inches / 89 cm for women) had roughly doubled the risk of premature death as men and women with the smallest waists (less than 34 inches / 86 cm for men and 28 inches / 71 cm for women)
- Each 2" / 5 cm increase in waist circumference size increased the risk of death by 17 percent in men and 13 percent in women
- Waist-to-hip ratio also strongly predicted mortality
This finding should encourage doctors to measure patients' waists as well as their weight and BMI on routine visits. The approach to diet and exercise in Grow Youthful is ideal for reducing this type of fat and gaining many healthy years.
The good news is that you don't need to spend any money or wait ages to test yourself. So how do you tell if you have excessive belly fat?
- To measure your waist circumference, place a tape measure around your waist at the smallest point, which is usually just above the navel. A waist size of 40 inches / 102 cm in men and 35 inches / 89 cm in women is generally considered to indicate increased health risk
- Waist-to-hip ratio is calculated by measuring your waist at the smallest point and your hips at the widest point - usually at the widest part of the buttocks - and dividing the waist measurement by the hip measurement. A waist-to-hip ratio of greater than 0.9 for men and 0.8 for women is generally considered high risk
Says Riboli: "If you have a large waist, you probably need to increase the amount of exercise you do every day, avoid excessive alcohol consumption and improve your diet. This could make a huge difference in reducing your risk of an early death."
1. Pischon, Tobias. General and Abdominal Adiposity and Risk of Death in Europe.
The The New England Journal of Medicine, Nov. 12, 2008; vol 359: pp 2105-2120