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Central obesity increases risk of death even in people with a normal body mass index

People of normal weight who have excess fat around their middle are more likely to die early than obese people whose excess fat is evenly distributed, study results suggest.

Using data on 15,184 adults between the ages of 18 and 90, just over half of whom were women, US researchers analysed the relationship between central obesity and total and cardiovascular health risk. They looked at two methods for measuring obesity: body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio.

The researchers found people with normal-weight central obesity had the worst long-term survival rates. Men with a normal BMI and excess fat around the middle had an 87% higher risk of death than men with the same BMI but a normal waist-to-hip ratio. Women with excess fat around the middle and a normal BMI had a 48% greater risk of death than women with a normal BMI and normal belly fat.

People with normal weight according to BMI cannot be reassured they do not have any fat-related health issues, said lead study author Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, professor of medicine at the

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Using data on 15,184 adults between the ages of 18 and 90, just over half of whom were women, US researchers analysed the relationship between central obesity and total and cardiovascular health risk. They looked at two methods for measuring obesity: body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio.

The researchers found people with normal-weight central obesity had the worst long-term survival rates. Men with a normal BMI and excess fat around the middle had an 87% higher risk of death than men with the same BMI but a normal waist-to-hip ratio. Women with excess fat around the middle and a normal BMI had a 48% greater risk of death than women with a normal BMI and normal belly fat.

‘People with normal weight according to BMI cannot be reassured they do not have any fat-related health issues,’ said lead study author Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic. ‘Having a normal weight is not enough. It is good only if the distribution of fat is healthy.’

Central obesity is associated with a build-up of visceral fat around organs, which is known to be harmful to health.

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