A new study suggests that when it comes to obesity, it's not about your BMI but rather where and how much fat accumulates in the area.
The US research led by Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, who works as an internal medicine specialist in the Mayo Clinic, reveals that although obese men and women have a higher risk of dying early, especially due to cardiovascular disease, than those who are of normal weight, the biggest predictor isn't the body mass index (BMI) but the shape of the body. To be more specific, those with an apple-shaped body, whose fat tends to accumulate around the midsection, may die earlier than the ones with pear-shaped body, whose fat is around the lower torso.
For the study, the team worked with more than 15,000 men and women between the ages of 18 and 90 whose waist-to-hip ratio, obtained by measuring the biggest butt circumference and ileac crest's high point, and BMI were measured. Their health and death were then closely followed within the next 15 years.
Based on the findings, obesity in general can lead to premature death. However, those who have a waist-to-hip ratio of more than 1 for men and .92 for women tend to have a higher risk than those with a lower ratio for both sexes.
Having a high waist-to-hip ratio is indicative of central obesity, which many studies believe to be more dangerous than other types of obesity. Also referred to as abdominal obesity, visceral obesity and, colloquially, beer belly or beer gut, it's linked to increased insulin resistance and higher levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure, all of which are associated with cardiovascular disease.
The results are significant since the relationship among BMI, central obesity, and weight are quite complex. Some people may be in an ideal BMI and weight yet carry a lot of fat in the abdomen. There are also obese individuals whose fat is evenly distributed across the arms, legs, and midsection.
The study is now available in the Annals of Internal Medicine.