New way of measuring obesity

11/08/2005 - News

New way of measuring obesity

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD


New way of measuring obesity

Reported by Susan Aldridge, PhD, medical journalist

Waist-to-hip ratio is a better way of measuring obesity than body mass index, according to a new study.
We already know that obesity is a risk factor for heart disease. But there is more to the issue than this because distribution of body fat is important, as well as how much you actually weigh. Doctors at McMaster University, Ontario, Canada, now argue that it's time to change the way obesity is measured to give a more accurate assessment of heart attack risk.

Traditionally, body mass index (BMI) has been used to measure obesity. This involves dividing weight in kilograms by the square of height in meters. A BMI reading over 30 is considered obese, 25 to 30 is overweight and 20 to 25 is healthy.

The researchers say it is more meaningful to look at waist-to-hip ratio. A high waist measurement indicates abdominal fat which is a strong risk factor for heart disease. The higher the waist-to-hip ratio, the more the abdominal fat.

The researchers checked BMI and waist-to-hip ratio in over 27,000 people in 52 countries, half of whom had had a heart attack. BMI was not significantly different between the two groups but waist-to-hip ratio was significantly higher among the heart attack patients. Therefore, people should be counseled to keep an eye on their waist measurement if they want to avoid heart disease.

The Lancet 5th November 2005

Created on: 11/08/2005
Reviewed on: 11/08/2005

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