Research conducted in the UK may be shedding new light on the value of another measure–the waist-to-height ratio (WHtR). First proposed in the mid-1990’s, WHtR appears to be gaining momentum as being a better detector of central obesity and the health risks associated with it.
In a 2012 study published in Obesity Reviews, researchers from Oxford Brooks University found that WHtR was a better measure for detecting hypertension, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, abnormal blood lipids, and general cardiovascular outcomes than three other measures: waist circumference; waist-to-hip ratio; and BMI.
And just recently, the same group of researchers reported study findings at the European Congress on Obesity that indicated WHtR was a better predictor of mortality risk than BMI.
Overall they found mortality risk was associated with BMI but WHtR estimates were higher and appeared to be more accurate. For example, a 30-year-old man with the highest BMI had a years-of-life-lost value of 10.5 years, while the same man with the highest WHtR (a waist measurement that was 80% of their height) had a years-of-lost-life value of almost 17 years! For a woman of the same age her years-of-lost-life values were 5.3 years and 9.5 years respectively.
What can we learn from studies like these? Not only the importance of striving for a healthier weight to reduce the risk of weight-related disease but also the importance of measuring your WHtR and reducing dangerous abdominal fat to ensure a long and healthy life. Your goal? A waist measurement that’s no more than 50% of your height. For someone who stands 6 feet tall, that means a waist of 36 inches or less!