Waist-to-hip ratio a stronger predictor of early death than BMI

Waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) is a stronger predictor of early death than body mass index (BMI) and should be considered as a superior measure of healthy weight, according to new research recently presented at the recent annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD).

Currently, BMI is widely used to assess whether a person is at a healthy weight, with a BMI of 18.5-24.9 kg/mconsidered to be in the healthy weight range. However, BMI does not take fat distribution into account, said Irfan Khan, a medical student at the College of Medicine and Health, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland, who carried out the research with colleagues in Canada: “It doesn’t consider where fat is stored – whether it’s accumulated around the hips or the waist. As a result, BMI doesn’t reliably predict risk of disease or mortality.”

Having first established that higher levels of fat (adiposity) actually caused increased mortality rather than being merely correlated with it, the researchers then applied genetically determined adiposity measures – information on the genes associated with BMI, WHR and FMI – to data on 25,297 Caucasian men and women. This showed the risk of an early death was lowest for those with the lowest WHR and then steadily increased with increasing WHR.

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