Belly Fat Doubles Death Risk
Increase in Death Risk Not Limited to Overweight, Obese
WebMD News Archive
Nov. 12, 2008 -- Belly fat has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. Now an important new
study links belly fat to early death.
Researchers followed about 360,000 Europeans enrolled in one of the largest,
longest health studies in the world.
They found that people with the most belly fat had about double the risk of
dying prematurely as people with the least amount of belly fat.
Death risk increased with waist circumference, whether the participants were
overweight or not.
The study provides some of the strongest evidence yet linking belly fat to
early death, says lead author Tobias Pischon, MD, MPH. It appears in the Nov.
12 issue of TheNew EnglandJournal of Medicine.
"Our study shows that accumulating excess fat around your middle can put
your health at risk even if your weight is normal," he says.
"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."
Belly Fat Research
It has long been recognized that people who carry their excess weight around
their middles -- those who are apple-shaped instead of pear-shaped -- have a
higher risk for heart attacks and strokes.
Recent research also suggests a link between belly fat and a range of other
diseases, including diabetes, some cancers, and even age-related dementias.
But it has not been clear whether the increase in death risk associated with
abdominal obesity occurs independently of recognized risk factors like general
obesity, Pischon says.
The researchers used two measures of abdominal obesity -- waist
circumference and waist-to-hip ratio -- in their attempt to better understand
the role of belly fat in early death.
They examined data on 359,387 European adults followed for nearly 10 years
who were enrolled in the larger, ongoing European Prospective Investigation
into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) health study.
During the follow-up period, 14,723 of the study participants died.
After adjusting for overweight and obesity, as measured by body mass index (BMI), waist
circumference and waist-to-hip measurements were both independently associated
with an increased risk for early death.