Excess fat around the waist is linked to a higher risk of early death than overall body fat but larger hips and thighs are associated with a lower risk, new research suggests.
Measuring so-called “central fatness” and using it alongside body mass index (BMI) could help to determine the risk of premature death, scientists said.
Researchers said previous work in this area looking at the association between waist circumference and total mortality risk has produced “inconsistent results” and that their work is the most extensive to date.
They said their work shows that people should focus on their waist, rather than just BMI or weight.
There was also the body adiposity index, which researches said is a measure of total body mass made only of fat tissue.
Study author Tauseef Ahmad Khan, from the department of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto, said fat around the abdomen can be more problematic than other areas of the body.
They said: “We found that the associations remained significant after body mass index was accounted for, which indicated that abdominal deposition of fat, independent of overall obesity, is associated with a higher risk.”
Each 10cm increase in waist circumference was associated with an 11% higher risk of all-cause mortality, the researchers said.
Every 0.1 unit increase in waist-to-hip ratio, waist-to-height ratio, and waist-to-thigh ratio was associated with around a 20% higher risk, they added.
But their findings suggested that thigh circumference and hip circumference were “inversely associated with all-cause mortality risk”.
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