Saturday November 15, 2008 (foodconsumer.org) -- Belly
fat is a factor not only for increased risk of heart disease and diabetes, but
also for premature death, according to a new study of about 360,000 Europeans.
Tobias Pischon, MD, MPH and colleagues at the Department
of Epidemiology, German Institute of Human Nutrition reported their study in
the Nov. 12 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine saying that people
with the most belly fat were almost twice as likely to die prematurely as
people with the least amount.
They found the increased risk was seen even in those who
had a large waist circumstance, but no overweight. The finding again suggests
that the body mass index may not be an adequate measure for assessing the risk
of excess body weight.
It has been known for long that people with excess weight
around their middles have a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Recent research also has linked belly fat to
a variety of other disease such as cancers, diabetes and age-related brain diseases.
For the study, Pischon and team followed 359,387 European
men and women for nearly 10 years. During the follow-up, 14,723 of the
The researchers were able to associate waist
circumference and waist-to-hip measurements with high risk of early death even
after overweight and obesity as measured by BMI were adjusted.
They found men and women who had largest waists were
twice as likely to die prematurely as those who had the smallest waists. Specifically,
for each 2-inch increase in waist circumference, the death risk was increased
by 17 percent in men and 13 percent in women.
The current study is not the first to find the
association between belly fat and increased risk of early mortality.
One study by Koster A and colleagues from the
National Institute on Aging in Bethesda, Maryland has already showed similar associations.
The study published in the June 2008 issue of American
Journal of Epidemiology followed 154,776 men and 90,757 women age 51-72
entering the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study in 1996 to 1997.
The researchers found men with largest waists were 22
percent more likely to die than those with small waists.
For women, the risk was increased by 28
Among women who had normal BMI, those with largest waist circumferences
were 22 percent more likely to die than those with smallest waists and men with
largest waists were 20 percent more likely to die prematurely than those with
smallest waist circumference.
Another study published in the April 2008 issue of
Circulation by Zhang C and colleagues from National Institute of Child Health
and Human Development showed that the death risk increased by
abdominal adiposity was much greater in those who
had cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Men and women with largest
abdominal adipositywere 79 percent more likely to die from all causes, 99 percent more
likely to die from CVD and 63 percent more likely to die from cancer than those
with smallest waists.
Additionally among women with normal weight, those with
waist circumference > or = 88 cm were 3 times as likely to die as those with
smallest waists and those with waist-to-hip ratio greater than 0.88 were 3.45
times as likely to die as those with smallest ratio.
The researchers concluded "Anthropometric measures
of abdominal adiposity were strongly and positively associated with all-cause,
CVD, and cancer mortality independently of body mass index. Elevated waist
circumference was associated with significantly increased CVD mortality even
among normal-weight women."
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