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Study Finds Abdominal Fat Increases Death Risk

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Thursday, November 13, 2008 1:43 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Healthy Living, Abdominal Fat, Waist Circumference, Obesity, BMI, EPIC Study, Heart Disease

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IMAGE SOURCE: © Wikimedia Commons / waist circumference / author: Pharos, FDA Dietary Guidelines

Obesity and a large waist circumference are strongly associated with the risk of premature death, according to a new European study.

The results of The European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study provide striking evidence that body weight and distribution of body fat are both major factors for assessing death risk.

The study included 360,000 people from nine European countries who were part of the EPIC Study.

During the follow-up period of 10 years, slightly less than 15,000 participants had died.

Participants with a high BMI, compared to those in medium range, died more often from heart diseases or cancer. While participants with a lower BMI tended to die more frequently from respiratory diseases.

The lowest relative risk of death was in men with a BMI of 25.3 and women with a BMI of 24.3.

Men with a BMI between 30 and 35 had a 24 percent greater risk of death compared to men in normal weight ranges. And women with a BMI between 30 and 35 had a 17 percent increased risk of death compared to those of average weight.

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight and a BMI over 30 is considered obese, according to the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

When factoring in abdominal fat, researchers found that men with the largest waist circumference had more than double the risk of death and women increased their risk of death by 78 percent.

“A large waist circumference is associated with a higher risk of mortality. This is even true for people who – in terms of BMI – would be considered normal weight,” Tobias Pischon, of the German Institute of Human Nutrition.

Until now, it was arguable as to what degree abdominal obesity played as a risk factor for premature death, independent from general overweight or obesity. The issue was investigated in the Epic Study, with focus on waist and hip circumference.

“Fat is a serious problem. The take home message is this, if you want to live a long and healthy life – you need to eat right, exercise often and reduce stress. Fat is bad for you, period,” said Dr. Mark Siegel, an internist at New York University Langone Medical Center.

The study, “General and Abdominal Adiposity and Risk of Death in Europe,” is published in the November 13 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. #


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