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Huge European Study Confirms Belly-Bulge Risk

We previously highlighted the deadly nature of deep belly fat, in mice and women (http://www.cbass.com/Deepfatdeadly.htm ). One study reported that lean, healthy mice implanted with visceral fat from obese mice developed atherosclerosis or clogged arteries. Another followed 44,636 women for 16 years and found that those with big bellies were twice as likely to die prematurely, even if their total body fat and BMI (body mass index) are normal. Now we have confirmation from a study involving almost 360,000 participants and eight times as many person years (3.6 million compared to 600,000). It’s convincing, and very important. 

The new study, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine (November 13, 2008), followed 359,387 men and women from nine European countries for an average of 9.7 years. The purposes of the study was to isolate and assess the independent impact of belly fat. They did this by measuring BMI, waist circumference, and waist-hip ratio and using statistical analysis to determine the association between each measure and participant deaths.

During the follow up period 14,723 participants died.

As in previous studies, the lowest risk of death was found in men and women with normal BMI. Stay slim and you're likely to live longer.

Does it make a difference if you have small arms and legs--and a big belly? 

That’s important because treatment guidelines now call for doctors to measure patients’ waist only when their BMI indicates they’re overweight.

Here are the bottom line findings.

Participants with normal body weight as indicated by BMI were found to have an increased risk of death—if they had a large waistline. Specifically, normal weight males with waist measurements over 40 inches are more than twice as likely to die as those with waists 35 inches or less. Woman with normal BMI and waistlines over 35 inches were 79% more likely to die than those with waists 28 inches or less.

Furthermore--get this--they found that each two-inch increase in waist size (no matter what the BMI) carries with it an added risk of death of 17% for men and 13% for women.

The researchers, led by Tobias Pischon, MD, of the German Institute of Human Nutrition, concluded: “These data suggest that both general adiposity and abdominal adiposity are associated with the risk of death and support the use of waist circumference or waist-to-hip ratio in addition to BMI in assessing risk of death.”

Harvard Medical Professor Rob M. van Dam (who was not involved) said the size and breadth of the study makes it a “very important” contribution to the field. “They really put it on the table in a very convincing way,” he told The Wall Street Journal’s Robert Tomsho.

Eyes on Problem

The studies showing the independent danger of visceral fat have put me on the lookout for people with bulging waistlines, and no butt or much of anything else. To my surprise, I see them everywhere: airports, restaurants, movie theaters, and on the street—just about everywhere I look. (Needless to say, I don't say a word to anyone.)

More men seem to fit the profile, but I also see quite a few women with little or no apparent muscle tone and pot bellies. It’s a real problem. Sedentary living is putting these people in serious jeopardy.

Hopefully, articles such as this will encourage people to eat sensibly and exercise regularly—and watch their waistline. It’s up to all of us to help ourselves. 

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