Study links larger waist circumference to higher mortality risk

March 17, 2009

People with a large waist circumference have a higher risk of mortality, even if they have a normal body mass index (BMI—a ratio of weight to height), finds a recent study supported in part by the NIA. The results suggest that waist circumference should be considered as a health risk factor independent of BMI, according to Dr. Annemarie Koster and co-authors in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

The researchers analyzed demographic and health data on 245,533 participants (154,776 men and 90,757 women) ages 51 to 72, drawn from the NIH–AARP Diet and Health Study. Defining a large waist circumference as more than 102 cm for men and 88 or more cm for women, they looked at the combined effects of BMI and waist circumference on time to death during 9 years (1996–2005).

Individuals with a large waist circumference had a 20 percent higher mortality risk than those with a normal waist circumference, after adjusting for BMI, the investigators found. This higher risk existed in people with and without prevalent disease, in smokers and nonsmokers, and to varying degrees across racial and ethnic groups. In addition, among participants with a normal BMI, those with a large waist circumference had a 20 percent higher risk of death than those with a normal waist circumference.


Koster A., et al. Waist circumference and mortality. Am J Epidemiol. 2008. 167:1465-75.

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