Study finds waist size a forgotten factor in defining obesity

Published on July 26, 2019

A new study from the University of Iowa finds that some people considered to be a normal weight could unknowingly be at high risk for obesity-related health issues.

A portrait of Assistant Professor Wei Bao of the Department of Epidemiology in the University of Iowa College of Public Health.
Wei Bao

The study, published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association’s JAMA Network Open, finds that a subgroup of people who are considered to be normal weight as measured by body mass index (BMI) could actually be at high risk for death because of their waist size.

Wei Bao, assistant professor of epidemiology in the UI College of Public Health and the study’s corresponding author, says that according to current clinical guidelines, physicians need rely only on BMI to determine obesity-related health risk. This leaves people who are actually in a high-risk group because of other risk factors, such as percentage of body fat, thinking they’re healthy.

“The results suggest we should encourage physicians to look not only at body weight but also body shape when assessing a patient’s health risks,” says Bao.

The study used data from the Women’s Health Initiative, which tracked the health of more than 156,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79 from 1993 to 2017. Bao and his team linked mortality rates to the respondents’ BMI as well as their central obesity, which is the excess accumulation of fat around a person’s midsection. Central obesity has been linked to an array of health problems and is measured by waist circumference.

Read the full Iowa Now article

Additional Media Coverage

https://www.npr.org/2019/07/26/745521193/people-of-normal-weight-may-be-at-risk-for-obesity-related-health-issues

https://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/news/20190724/waist-size-key-to-health-even-without-obesity#1

https://www.upi.com/Health_News/2019/07/24/Bellyfat-in-some-postmenopausal-women-linked-to-higher-death-risk/2111563980460/

https://www.medpagetoday.com/endocrinology/obesity/81193

https://medicalresearch.com/menopause/normal-weight-women-with-central-obesity-still-at-increased-risk/50382/

http://www.bariatricnews.net/?q=news/113568/waist-important-factor-defining-obesity

https://consumer.healthday.com/vitamins-and-nutrition-information-27/body-fat-health-news-300/bigger-waistlines-a-threat-to-women-s-health-even-without-obesity-748629.html