Body mass index is often used to determine health status and disease development potential. However, researchers from the Mayo Clinic have discovered that waist size can be a significant predictor of future problems—even among people in healthy BMI ranges.

The scientists culled data from 11 studies that included 650,386 white adults aged 20–83. At a 9-year follow-up, 78,268 participants had died.

“After accounting for age, study, BMI, smoking status, alcohol consumption, and physical activity, a strong positive linear association of waist circumference with all-cause mortality was observed for men and women,” the authors reported.

The study, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings (2014; 89 [3], 335–45), also stated that life expectancy decreased by 3 years and 5 years, respectively, among men and women with the largest waist circumferences.

“In white adults, higher waist circumference was positively associated with higher mortality at all levels of BMI. . . . Waist circumference should be assessed in combination with BMI, even for those in the normal BMI range, as part of risk assessment for obesity-related premature mortality.”

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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