Research: Waist circumfernce and what it means for your health. 

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A trim and tone waist can mean lower body weight and improved health.  



Our body waist circumference is an indicator of our overall health and risk fo disease.  Instructors teach all medical professionals that reducing your risk of diabetes and heart disease is as easy as shrinking your belly.  This statement is based on the belief that bell fat or central obesity is the highest risk for obesity-related illness than other forms of obesity.  Extra inches around your waist will not only make it hard to hug you; it also increases your risk for illness. Excess belly fat also puts you at higher risk for type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and heart disease.  This hypothesis is well proven.    

So, how well does waist circumference measure the risk for obesity-related illnesses?  Waist circumference is an excellent measure of the risk level for these illnesses and for obesity as a whole.  In fact, it is research proven to be superior to BMI in estimate the risk for central obesity and obesity-related illnesses.  In fact, a study from 2004 looked to ass waist circumference to BMI to assist with measuring the risk of obesity-related illnesses[1].  Researchers found that waist circumference, and not BMI, was a better predictor of obesity-related health risk. Overweight and obese persons and normal-weight persons have comparable health risks for a given waist circumference. BMI remains a significant predictor of health risks despite this finding.

Another study looked at waist circumference as a measure to indicate where a patient needs intervention for obesity.  Based on the results, waist circumference could be used in health promotion programmes to identify individuals who should seek and be offered weight management[2].  They found that men with a waist circumference over 37 inches and women with a waist circumference over 31.5 inches, should gain no further weight.   Women with waists larger than 35 inches and men with waists bigger than 40 inches should lose weight because they tend to have a higher overall risk to get obesity-related diseases than people with smaller waists. That includes type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. The most notable finding is that it was an effective measure of a need to lose or not gain further weight.  

The bottom line:  If you lose inches from your belly, you will improve your health and fitness.  Your waist circumference or pant size can be an indicator of your overall health.  All you need to measure your risk is a tape measure aroudn your waist.   The best part about waist circumference is that you do not need a fancy body fat scale or BMI calculator to figure your risk.  


I. Janssen, P. Katzmarzyk, and R. Ross, “Waist circumference and not body mass index explains obesity-related health risk.,” Am J Clin Nutr, vol. 79, no. 3, pp. 379–84, Mar. 2004. [PubMed]
M. Lean, T. Han, and C. Morrison, “Waist circumference as a measure for indicating need for weight management.,” BMJ, vol. 311, no. 6998, pp. 158–61, Jul. 1995. [PubMed]
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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