Those of us who carry a few extra pounds on our waist might not be so worried if our overall weight is ok, but a study just published in the 10 November 2015 Annals of Internal Medicine (USA) may alert us that these extra pounds in the middle are really not so innocent.
This study was based on the “waist-hip ratio” (WHR), which is a measure comparing your waist circumference at your umbilicus compared with your circumference at the level of your hips. Here is a simple way to find out your ratio using this online calculator from the Albert Einstein Hospital.
When you use this calculator, you will get a number such as 0.9 or 1.0. In general, the lower the number the better. That means, for good health, the measurement of your waist should be less than the measurement at your hips.
The World Health Organization says that for men, the WHR should be less than 0.9, and for women, less than 0.85.
People who have a high WHR are said to have an “apple” shaped body, and people with a lower ratio are described as “pear” shaped. Pear-shaped is better, as an apple shape means you have more fat in your abdominal area. The fat that is dangerous is not the fat under your skin, but the fat that is deep, wrapped around your internal organs.
This deep fat, called “visceral fat”, is dangerous because it is not just sitting there innocently. This fat is actively secreting toxins (certain fatty acids, hormones, and inflammatory agents) that are harming your metabolism. These toxins lead to higher LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose levels, and even higher blood pressure. Your body becomes less sensitive to the effects of insulin, and diabetes can be the result.
In the just published American study, the researchers measured the waist-hip ratio of 15,184 adults aged 18 to 90 years, and followed them for more than 14 years. They compared the number of people who died from cardiovascular disease during those years with their WHR at the start of the study.
The results showed that men with a abnormally high WHR (more fat in the belly) had an 87% higher risk of death during the 14 year period than men with a normal ratio. Even men who were overall overweight, but had a normal waist-hip ratio, survived better than men whose overall weight was normal, but had a high ratio.
For women, the effect was not so strong, but still very significant. The women with an elevated WHR had a 48% higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease than women with a normal WHR.
If you have been gaining weight, especially around your stomach and mid-section, even if your overall weight is still ok, this study should make you concerned. Measure your WHR, and if elevated, you can take measures to improve your diet, exercise more, sit in one spot less, and try to get adequate sleep at night. All these things will help cut your abdominal fat, and these are all topics that we regularly discuss here in the blog.
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