This Washington Post article reports on a new study published in The Lancet that indicates the relationship between belly size and hip size is more useful measure of health risk than the commonly-used body mass index (BMI):
According to a study published in The Lancet, a calculation comparing waist circumference to hip circumference is a better predictor of heart attack risk than . . . [b]ody mass index, [which] is often used to screen for obesity and to assess risk for a variety of diseases and conditions, including diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart attack.
[T]he Lancet study, described by the authors as the largest and most conclusive to date, found that “BMI is a very weak predictor of the risk of a heart attack,” said Salim Yusuf, lead author and director of the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. “Measuring the girth of the waist and [the] girth of the hip is far more powerful.”
The authors suggested people forgo calculating BMI. “I’d say just do the waist-to-hip ratio,” Yusuf said. “There really is no additional value [in] doing the BMI.”
The study indicates that even relatively lean people with a BMI that is quite low still have increased risk for heart attack based on the presence of abdominal fat. It remains unclear why location of fat in the abdominal area poses a greater health risk than fat carried around the hips, but recent studies have also linked waist-to-hip ratio to increased risk of diabetes and hypertension. The findings reported in Lancet study indicate that men with waist-to-hip ratios greater than 0.95 are at heightened risk for a heart attack and that females with ratios above 0.8 are at increased risk, and that the the risk “rose progressively with increasing values for waist-to-hip ratio, with no evidence of a threshold.”
Speaking of health-related matters, the Chronicle has added a health-related blog by medical reporter Leigh Hopper to its growing list of weblogs. Chronicle technology reporter Dwight Silverman spearheaded the Chronicle’s blog initiative last year, and now other prominent newspapers are emulating the Chronicle’s blog idea. Kudos to Dwight and the Chronicle for contributing greatly to this productive trend of enhancing communication between media and its customers.