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General Health : Lifestyle Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM

Belly fat linked to high risk of diabetes, premature death
By Sue Mueller & David Liu
Nov 16, 2008 - 12:28:41 PM

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Belly fat may be a better indicator for the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes including premature death, according to a new study of about 360,000 Europeans. 

The study led by Tobias Pischon, MD, MPH and colleagues at the Department of Epidemiology, German Institute of Human Nutrition showed that people with the most belly fat were almost twice as likely to die prematurely as people with the least amount. 

The study was reported their study in the Nov. 12, 2008 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

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 participants died. 

They 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.

It has been known for long that people with excess weight around their middles have a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes.   Recent research also has linked belly fat to a variety of other disease such as cancers, diabetes and age-related brain diseases. 

One study published in the Nov 2008 issue of Public Health Nutrition found that a large waist circumference and high ratio of waist to height were associated with high risk of type 2 diabetes in Chinese adults.

For the study, He Y and colleagues from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing, China looked at data for 50,905 adults age 18 to 79 enrolled in the 2002 China National Nutrition and health Survey.

In the study, body mass index greater than 24 kg/m2 was considered high BMI and waist circumference greater than 85 cm in men and 80 cm in women were considered high waist circumference.

The researchers found high IMI, waist circumference and waist-to-height ratio (WTHR) were all associated with glucose intolerance abnormalities with those with highest prevalence found in those with high WTHR.   The risk was increased 2.85 times men with high WTHR and 3.10 times in women with larger waists.

They concluded that among the Chinese adult population, measures of abdominal obesity are better predictors of prevalence of glucose tolerance abnormalities than BMI.

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