In a new study, researchers found that some people considered to have a normal weight could unknowingly be at high risk for obesity-related diseases due to their large waist size, or central obesity.
Central obesity is the excess fat around a person’s midsection that has been linked to many health problems and is measured by waist circumference.
The research was conducted by a team from the University of Iowa.
According to current clinical guidelines, doctors need to rely only on BMI to determine obesity-related health risk.
This leaves people who actually have a high risk of obesity-related death due to other factors, such as percentage of body fat, thinking they’re healthy.
In the study, the team used data from the Women’s Health Initiative, which tracked the health of more than 156,000 women between the ages of 50 and 79 from 1993 to 2017.
The team linked mortality rates to the respondents’ BMI as well as their central obesity.
They found a group of people who are considered to be normal weight as measured by body mass index (BMI) could actually be at high risk for death because of their waist size.
The two primary causes of death in people who had normal BMI but high waist size were heart disease and obesity-related cancer.
For example, women who were considered normal weight on the BMI scale but had a high waist circumference were found to be 31% more likely to die.
The findings show the limitations of BMI when determining a person’s risk for health problems.
While it’s a simple number to understand and easy to determine—it involves only height and weight—it isn’t always accurate because it doesn’t include other important numbers, such as the percentage of body fat or where that fat has accumulated on the body.
It’s not unusual for people with a high BMI score to be in excellent health because the bulk of their weight is muscle—football linemen, for instance.
At the same time, people who are in the normal range on BMI could still have a high percentage of body fat, putting them in a high-risk group.
The researchers suggest doctors need to look not only at bodyweight but also body shape when assessing a patient’s health risks.
This study is so far the largest to identify people with normal-weight central obesity as a high-risk group for death.
One author of the study is Wei Bao, professor of epidemiology in the UI College of Public Health.
The study is published in the JAMA Network Open.
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