Waist Size Mortality Risk on Par With Obesity, Even With Healthy BMI

If you have been looking for strategies to improve your health, you might be interested to know that a new study advises that optimal health might not be necessarily associated with a “weight range.”  This new study suggests, instead, that some people of otherwise normal weight—and associated body mass index (BMI)—might actually be at a higher risk for death. 

And the cause might be their waist measurement. 

Corresponding study author Wei Bao advises that current clinical guidelines only require physicians to rely on BMI as a determinant for a patient’s obesity-related health risks.  This actually excludes a small—but important—subset of people who may be at a higher risk but are overlooked because other risk factors have not been taken into consideration. 

The study compiled data collected during the Women’s Health Initiative. This survey tracked the health of more than 156,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79 between 1993 and 2017.  Through simple analysis of this data, Bao’s team managed to link mortality rate with BMI as well as with central obesity (excess accumulation of fat at the midsection, a condition which has been commonly linked with a variety of other health problems). 

While observing the study, the researchers found that women who were considered to be of normal weight (and BMI) but had higher waist circumference were also more than 30 percent likely to die within the twenty year observation period.  This is important because it is quite comparable to the 30 percent higher chance of death associated with obesity, which is the group considered to be at highest risk, also within a twenty year period. 

Effectively, the study found that two primary causes of death among people with a normal BMI but higher-than-normal waist size, was cardiovascular disease and obesity-related cancer. 

According to Bao, “People with normal weight based on BMI, regardless of their central obesity, were generally considered normal in clinical practice according to current guidelines.  This could lead to a missed opportunity for risk evaluation and intervention programs in this high-risk subgroup.”

To summarize, the researchers conclude by emphasizing the importance of maintaining a healthy weight.  It is extremely difficult to lose weight in a specific area—particularly adipose weight in the midsection—so risk-reduction is best maintained through nutrition and motivation to follow a health lifestyle.