Researchers at the Mayo Clinic Rochester, MN found normal weight individuals who carry weight concentrated in their belly have a higher death risk than obese individuals.
“We knew from previous research that central obesity is bad, but what is new in this research is that the distribution of the fat is very important even in people with a normal weight,” said Dr Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, senior author on the study and a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
“The group with central obesity has the highest death rate, even higher than those who are considered obese based on BMI. From a public health perspective, this is a significant finding.”
Participants were men and women 18 years old and older. The nearly 13,000 subjects were tracked for a median of just over 14 years.
The subjects with normal BMI but central obesity as defined by a high waist-to-hip ratio had the highest cardiovascular death risk and the highest death risk from all causes among the six subgroups.
The risk of cardiovascular death was 2.75 times higher and the risk of death from all causes was 2.08 times higher in normal weight obese people as compared with subjects with normal BMI and normal waist-to-hip ratio.
Dr Sahakyan concluded: “Health professionals need to educate patients about the importance of having a healthy weight and a normal waist-to-hip ratio. Promotion of healthy lifestyle including healthy eating and exercise is perhaps the best strategy.”