Having a roll of fat round your waist, even if you are thin elsewhere, doubles the risk of an early death compared to people who are obese.
Having fat distributed around your body is actually healthier than just having it round your middle according to a major study of 15,000 people over 15 years carried out by the Mayo clinic in Minnesota.
It doesn’t matter what your bmi is, if you you are “centrally obese” you are more likely to die earlier. If you are a man you are twice as likely to die early.
Central obesity is defined as having a wider waist (measured at the narrowest point) than hips (measured around the widest point of the buttocks) for men and for women having a waist larger than 90% of their hip measurement.
Why should this be? Even Professor Fransisco Lopez-Jiminez, the director of preventive cardiology at the clinic isn’t sure but there are several theories.
- Having fat outside the abdomen is a good thing as it might have some protective effects entirely opposite to bad fats.
- People with an abnormal central distribution of fat often have less muscle mass elsewhere which means they are less able to use sugar in useful ways.
- People who put down fat may be more likely to have a type of fat called “visceral fat” which clumps round the organs. Professor Jimmy Bell from the University of Westminster thought that could be crucial as “over the longterm visceral fat leads to sustained chronic systemic inflammation … believed to have a detrimental effect on many levels – the heart, metabolism, and even cognition“
Professor Bell, who wasn’t involved in the study, thought the research was useful in understanding some of the apparent anomalies in obesity research. “We know from our research that there are different body types where people do not fit into the standard bmi. They might have the right bmi but the wrong fat distribution.”
Professor Lopez-Jiminez also said that more research is needed because “we don’t really know what makes fat go to those areas of the body in some people while in others it might go to the right place”.
Earlier research on women‘s body shape found links between bmi, body shape and dementia.
And height:waist ratio has been strongly recommended as an alternative to the bmi which doesn’t take into account muscle weight.
Main source: The Times
There is now further evidence on this from research carried out by Cass Business School at the University of London. It claims to be the first study to analyse official health records to measure the impact on life expectancy on obesity as measured by the ratio between your waist and height.
This is clearly not true as I posted about this in May 2013 describing research at Oxford Brookes University which also looked at the Health & Lifestyle survey, which goes back to 1984, and the Health Survey for England which studies 8,000 people every year.
Leaving these academic institutions to fight it out the results from both studies have the same message: your waistline – as measured at the narrowest point without breathing in – should be half your height or less. So a person who is 5′ 10″ should have a waist of no more than 35″, and a person who is 5′ 4′ have a waist of no more than 32″.
If a man expands his waistline to 60% of his height he loses 1.7 years of life and a woman doing the same 1.4 years.
Dr Margaret Ashwell, a co-author of the study, said the rule applied regardless of a person’s age or ethnicity. Dr Ashwell first popularised the discovery that apple-shaped obesity is more dangerous than pear-shaped obesity in 1996 (see post: “What fruit is your bum“) because of the amount of central fat in the body which affects vital organs causing heart problems and diabetes unlike fat on thighs and hips.
She said people who rely on their body-mass index (BMI) live on false hope. Using the waist;height ratio puts 69% of the population at risk compared to 56% if you use BMI.
But whether adopting this as the preferred measure will make any difference is anybody’s guess. GPs, who recently attacked childhood obesity welcomed the findings but thought it was unclear whether “worrying people about their weight actually motivates them to make a long-term commitment to lifestyle changes”.
You know by now that dieting only work for about 10% of those who do it.
You probably know you should eat healthily.
You should also know that diet drinks are dangerous. You may have dismissed as an urban myth the idea that you can use cola to shine up coins or the dead mouse in a can of citrus soft drink which had turned to slush (a recent court case in USA).
Now experts believe that people who drink as little as 1 can of fizzy diet drink a day are over 40% more likely to suffer from a stroke or heart attack.
Previous studies have shown that while diet drinks may boast no sugar but use artificial sweeteners which can cause long-term liver damage similar to chronic alcohol abuse.
And now it seems that despite diet drinks claiming to have fewer calories they can actually make you put on weight. People who regularly drank diet drinks over a 10 year period had 70% bigger waists than people who didn’t drink them. Even restricting yourself to 2 diet drinks a day can add 2″ to your waistline.
The soft drink companies resist this evidence arguing that drinking diet drinks as part of a calorie-controlled diet can help reduce obesity and reduce the risk of strokes.
My advice is avoid anything with the word diet in it!
And it’s not only the diet drinks. Both Pepsi and Coca Coal have recently changed their recipes because of what they call an unfounded cancer scare (the caramel colouring 4-MEI is classed as carcinogenic) but they don’t want to have to put a health warning label on their cans. Caramel is probably the least of your worries.
Source: Journal of General Internal Medicine & others