Testing: The waist-to-hip ratio should replace the BMI to measure a healthy weight

A new study says measuring waist-to-hip ratio, rather than body mass index, is a better indicator of healthy weight – and may be a better prediction of early death. Photo by PublicDomainPictures / Pixabay

September 21 (UPI) – New research suggests that waist-to-hip ratio, rather than body mass index, is a better measure of healthy weight – and may be a better predictor of early death than BMI.

Scientists insist on using a new method to replace the BMI index, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called an “inexpensive and easy tool”, as these calculations only require a person’s height and weight.

But the researchers found that the waist-to-hip ratio is also a “quick and easy measurement”, calculated by dividing the waist circumference by the hip circumference.

Their work is presented this week at the annual meeting of the European Diabetes Research Association in Stockholm.

BMI is calculated by taking a person’s weight in kilograms and dividing it by the square of height in meters, with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 considered healthy. But this measurement does not take into account fat distribution, the researchers found.

“It doesn’t take into account where fat is stored – whether it builds up around the hips or waist. As a result, BMI does not reliably predict risk of disease or mortality, ”said Irfan Khan, a medical student at University College Cork. College of Medicine and Health in Cork, Ireland, which did research with colleagues from Canada.

This means that a person who has accumulated fat around their waist will have the same BMI as a person of the same age and height who stores fat around their hips, despite the health risks of belly fat.

Khan said the waist-to-hip ratio better reflects the level of abdominal fat, including visceral fat, which wraps around organs deep in the body and increases the risk of a number of medical conditions.

More accurate measurement of healthy body shape “could have a significant impact on ill health and deaths from type 2 diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers and many other conditions,” he said.

According to Khan, the message is simple: the lower the waist-to-hip ratio, the lower the risk of death.

The waist-to-hip ratio is “a stronger and more solid measure” compared to BMI, UPI said in an email.

“Instead of aiming for a specific BMI goal, which may or may not be beneficial depending on individual body composition, aim for a lower [waist-to-hip ratio] it will always lead to a lower mortality, ”he said.

In the beginning, researchers wanted to determine if the waist-to-hip ratio or the body fat mass index more reliably predicted mortality for different body fat distributions.

Fat mass index is calculated by dividing fat mass in kilograms by height in meters squared; BMI takes into account the total weight of a person in its measurement.

First, the researchers participating in the study analyzed the data of participants in the British Biobank, who had genes that predispose them to gain weight and obesity. Their analysis showed that higher fat levels resulted in increased mortality, not only was correlated with it.

They then applied information about genes related to three measurements – BMI, waist-to-hip ratio and body fat mass index – to data on approximately 25,000 white men and women whose health was tracked in the UK Biobank study. until their death and a similar number of controls “matched for age, sex and genetic background”.

Despite the use of a genetically determined waist-to-hip ratio in the analysis, the researchers found that their findings apply equally to conventional waist and hip measurement.

The researchers found that the risk of premature death was lowest in those with the lowest waist-to-hip ratio, and then steadily increased as the waist-to-hip ratio increased.

In contrast, people with an unusually high or low BMI or fat mass index had an increased risk of death compared to those with a moderate BMI or fat mass index.

For example, each one unit increase in waist-to-hip ratio increased the likelihood of premature death by almost twice as much as one unit increase in BMI or body fat index.

The researchers also found that waist-to-hip ratio was more strongly associated with death from all causes than BMI or fat mass index. This relationship was stronger in men than in women.

According to Khan, clinicians may already have a tape measure with them for certain tests: such as measuring the apparent length of a patient’s limb versus the actual length of the limbs, or measuring the extent of the liver during abdominal or gastrointestinal examinations.

“Waist and hip circumferences are easy to measure in adults with a tape measure, so I see no reason why doctors should not carry a tape measure to do this,” he said.

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