A new study shows that those "pot bellies" and "Love handles" that we all hate do not just look bad! Increased weight around our middles has now been shown to increase the risk of an early death, even if a person's overall weight is normal.
The research was done among almost 360,000 people from nine European countries, and it found that waist size is a very "powerful indicator" of risk. In fact, each extra 2 inches (5 cm) raised the chance of early death by between 13% and 17%. Men with waists 47 inches (119 cm) or larger had a doubled rate of death compared with those with waists under 31.5 inches (80 cm), and a similar statistic was found when women with waists over 39 inches (99 cm) were compared to those under 25.5 inches (64.7 cm).
Why should this be so? Well, the fat in the abdomen tends to be a different type of fat, known as visceral fat. This is the fat that builds up around the abdominal organs, and it causes the classical pot belly that can overhang the pants. Visceral fat actually secretes hormones that contribute to the early onset of various diseases. There is a lot that we still do not know, and I am hoping that future research will focus on whether treatment for weight problems should focus on preventing increases in waist size rather than holding down overall weight, if that is possible, but for now, the message should be clear - a large waist is a danger sign and it is an urgent warning that we need to lose weight . Don't be surprised to have your doctor or staff measure your waist at your next check up, and if they don't, go ahead and ask 'em to! The result is important.
Pischon, T. The New England Journal of Medicine, Nov. 12, 2008; vol 359: pp 2105-2120.