Large Waist Increases Death Risk

A large waist can not only make finding well-fitting jeans a challenge, but can also shorten one’s lifespan, researchers say.

People who have a large waist circumference have a higher mortality rate than those with a smaller waist, according to a new study.

The study, published earlier this month in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that a large waist size was a bigger risk factor than even overall weight. Researchers at the Atlanta-based American Cancer Society analyzed the relationship between waist circumference and the risk of death in more than 100,000 men and women over age 50.

They tracked the participants from 1997 to 2006, during which time 5,332 women and 9,315 men died of various causes. Of those who died, women with a waist size of 42 inches or larger and men with a waist size of 47 inches or larger were twice as likely to die as those with a smaller circumference around the midsection. Researchers also found that waist size, especially in women, was associated with death regardless of whether the participant was normal weight, overweight, or obese according to their body mass index (BMI).

The findings could influence future obesity guidelines.

“Currently available clinical guidelines from the National Institutes of Health are based on evidence from the 1990s,” the researchers say. “These guidelines recommend that waist circumference be used to identify increased disease risk only among individuals in the overweight and obese categories of BMI.”

Previous studies indicate that large waist circumference is associated with other adverse health effects, including insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and coronary heart disease. The researchers say that their findings provide additional evidence that a large waist circumference may have life threatening health effects, even among those with a BMI below 30, and urge people to avoid gaining extra weight around their midsection.