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The battle of the bulge - a new approach.

In January, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported on a study that found waist-hip ratios to be a better health-risk measure than traditional height-weight ratios.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health compared waist measurement to hip measurement to predict survival rates among 41,837 Iowa women ages 50-69. Study participants ranged in weight from being about 10 percent underweight to 40 percent overweight. Researchers discovered that, regardless of the weight of any individual participant, the bigger the waist in comparison to the hips, the higher the risk.

A ratio of 0.8 (i.e., a waist measurement that is 80 percent of the hip measurement) or less is recommended for women. For men, as determined by previous studies, the ratio should be 0.95 or less.

The authors found these ratios to be better predictors of death risk than height-weight ratios. However, they emphasized that physicians still should use the latter in the routine monitoring of patients by physicians. They found that the thinnest people with high waist-hip ratios had a greater death risk than fatter people with the same ratios.

Of the more than 41,000 women in the study, 1,504 died during the years that the study was carried on. Fifty-two percent died from cancer, 32 percent from heart disease, and the rest from a variety of other causes.

Persons 20 percent or more overweight are at increased risk of developing a number of diseases. Because waist-hip ratios are largely genetically determined, it is easier for most people to reduce weight relative to height. If one can successfully reduce waist size with whatever forms of exercise seem to work, the health benefits of reducing waist size relative to hip size would seem to be substantial.
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Publication:Medical Update
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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