Perhaps only Santa Claus is exempt from the deadly effects of excess abdominal fat, which according to new research published in Monday’s Archives of Internal Medicine, is more harmful than fat stored in the hips or thighs. In an observational study analyzing waist size and death, 100,000 people in three body mass index categories — normal, overweight and obese — were followed from 1997 to 2006, and findings show that an extra four inches in the waistline increases the risk of death by 15 to 25 percent. According to the research, men should limit their waist circumference to less than 40 inches while women should fall below 35 inches, since a larger waistline carries a greater risk of death — even for people with a normal BMI.
Further, men in the over-47 inch range had double the risk of death over 10 years as compared to men in the under-35 inch range, and similar risks were found for women based on waist circumference alone.
The news does not come as much of a surprise to ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. “It’s been known for some years now that waist circumference is a risk factor for cardiovascular events and mortality independent of BMI. Belly fat is more dangerous for cardiovascular complications or death than fat distributed elsewhere in the body.”
When ACSH's Jeff Stier asked how one might avoid increased belly fat, Dr. Ross jokes, “Perhaps jumping rope? It might make the fat fall gradually into your thighs and eliminate the imminent threat. In all seriousness, there’s only one proven solution: eat fewer calories and increase your exercise.”