Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Gut Size Better Than BMI for Predicting Risk

The relationship between belly size and hip size appears to be a more useful measure of health risk than the widely used body mass index, or BMI.

The results of the study, published in the Lancet, have implications for those seeking to assess their health for the new year: a measuring tape may be more useful than a scale.

People -- even lean people -- whose waists are wider than their hips may carry much of their fat in the abdomen, close to organs such as the heart, stomach, liver and kidneys. Why this poses a greater health risk than fat concentrated around the hips is not completely understood, but some experts say they believe the heightened risk has to do with fat so closely surrounding the liver and other organs. Other recent studies have linked waist-to-hip ratio to risk of diabetes and hypertension.

The findings suggest that men with waist-to-hip ratios greater than 0.95 are at heightened risk for a heart attack; women with ratios above 0.8 are at increased risk. A woman with a 37-inch waist and 39-inch hips would have a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.95, putting her at higher risk, according to Lancet data.

"The whole concept is central obesity -- a beer belly or a paunch," said Wm. James Howard, an endocrinologist and vice president for academic affairs at Washington Hospital Center.

Get your tape measure and calculate your risk here.

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