Thursday, 12 September 2019

Obesity-related health risks - waist size is equally important as BMI


In India, the incidence of obesity in women is far higher than men for many reasons, one being their physiology and the other being their child-bearing. Likewise, for obese women risk factor is much higher than men.  Nothing is impossible in the world; proper diet and consistent aerobic exercise can reduce the risk considerably.

Many research  studies on obesity-related issues have been pouring out information on the close link between obesity and the waist line.  A new study undertaken by the medical researchers at

the University of Iowa, USA  has come up with new results: the researchers point out that some people having normal health and weight, without knowledge could be at high risk for obesity-related health problems. It  implies they are ignorant of their inherent /hidden obesity related risks.

 The research was published in  the current issue of JAMA -
the Journal of the American Medical Association's Network Open.
Normally body mass index (BMI) is measured in such studies as a standard procedure. The study points that  a subgroup of people having normal weight based on their BMI may run the risk of death provided they have large waist-line. 

According to the main author as per current clinical guidelines,  physicians have to depend on BMI to determine obesity-related health risks. The crux of the matter  is this method excludes those  who are actually in a high-risk group because of other risk factors, such as percentage of body fat. Such people think that they  're healthy.
The main author Wei Bao,  professor of epidemiology in the UI College of Public Health comes up with a reasonable suggestion:  "The results suggest we should encourage physicians to look not only at body weight but also body shape when assessing a patient's health risks," says Bao.

This study  used the  data  collected by the Women's Health Initiative from more than 156,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79 from 1993 to 2017.  They tracked the mortality rates  and the link to the respondents' BMI as well as their central obesity. Central obesity, that is  excess accumulation of fat around a person's midsection is an important criterion in this unique study. The parameter is not given due importance. From this research, it is imperative, central-obesity is an essential factor in the study of obesity-health related issues.
 Women with normal weight on  the BMI scale but had a high waist circumference  were  found to be 31 percent more likely to face death over  20 year observation period. This is close to 30 percent  possible risk that an obese person with central obesity'. This one coming under the high risk group may face the same fate within 20 years of observation.  In such cases of people with normal BMI and  central obesity problem, the main causes of death are  cardiovascular disease and obesity-related cancer. 

The study demonstrates the limitations of BMI when determining a person's risk for health problems.  A person's weight and height  alone can not determine  his health issue so is normal BMI. The latter does not show the distribution of  body fat and its accumulation in one place. BMI is widely used in obesity related issues, but this parameter pushes the people with central obesity in the dark and the risk is not  addressed. 

The research group's conclusion is : "People with normal weight based on BMI, regardless of their central obesity, were generally considered normal in clinical practice according to current guidelines," Bao says. "This could lead to a missed opportunity for risk evaluation and intervention programs in this high-risk subgroup."

Materials provided by University of Iowa. Original written by Tom Snee
 Association of Normal-Weight Central Obesity With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality Among Postmenopausal Women. JAMA Network Open, 2019; 2 (7):