Waist Size: Measure your waist, measure your risk.


In 1997 the World Health Organisation (WHO) Expert Consultation on Obesity recognised the importance of abdominal fat mass (referred to as abdominal, central or visceral obesity), which can vary considerably within a narrow range of total body fat and body mass index (BMI). It also highlighted the need for other indicators to complement the measurement of BMI, to identify individuals at increased risk of obesity-related diseases. Two such proxy measures of abdominal obesity, which can complement the measure of BMI are waist size (circumference) and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR).

In my post ‘What is obesity – is it merely about BMI? What is obesity? I had highlighted that over the years, starting from the early 1980s, many research studies had confirmed the notion that rather than the excess body fat per se, regional distribution of body fat at different anatomic sites was much more important in driving the risk of cardiovascular diseases and other health hazards linked to obesity. In the same post I had described ‘abdominal obesity’ (individuals with excess intra-abdominal fat) and a characteristic obesity phenotype – ‘Asian Indian Phenotype or Paradox’ (Asians, particularly people in South-East Asia and China, displaying a greater amount of intra-abdominal fat for a given waist size [circumference] or BMI).

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