Excess Belly Fat Doubles Risk of Death
A new European study says that if you have that “spare tire” around your middle, you have a higher risk of dying than someone who is of normal weight.
People who are apple-shaped – where the weight tends to collect in the middle – are faced with an even higher risk of death than a pear-shaped person – where weight settles in the hips and thighs.
“Our study shows that accumulating excess fat around your middle can put your health at risk even if your weight is normal,” says lead author Tobias Pischon, MD, MPH. “There aren't many simple individual characteristics that can increase a person's risk of premature death to this extent, independent of smoking and drinking.”
In one of the largest long-term studies in the world, researchers studied about 360,000 Europeans ages 25 to 70 from nine European countries and found that people with belly fat had the most risk of dying prematurely.
They also looked at waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio and found that those were also factors in having a higher mortality risk.
Researchers found that men and women with the largest waists (more than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women) had double the risk of mortality than those with the smallest waists. They also found that waist-to-hip ratio strongly predicted mortality.
“The most important result of our study is the finding that not just being overweight, but also the distribution of body fat, affects the risk of premature death,” Pischon says.
During the follow-up after 10 years, they found that around 15,000 people had died.
"Having a large waist circumference is related to a higher risk of death. This is even true for people who -- in terms of BMI -- would be considered as being normal weight," Pischon said.
This research is published in the Nov. 13 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.