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Death risk link to love handles

13th November 2008

Researchers say that people who carry extra weight around their middle face a dramatically increased risk of early death.

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The risk applies even if a person’s weight is normal, according to the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study carried out among 360,000 people from nine European countries highlighted waist size as a powerful indicator or risk.

Researchers, including some from Imperial College London, stressed that GPs should regularly measure patients' waists to assess health after suggesting that extra two inches raised the chance of early death by between 13% and 17%.

Volunteers, who were an average age of 51 at the start of the study, were followed for a decade. Over that period 14,723 of them died.

While body mass index (BMI) remained a reasonable predictor of health problems the hip/waist ratio also pinpointed those at higher risk with a thickening midriff being a sign of type 2 diabetes. Those with a normal BMI but larger than average waist were at higher risk.

Professor Elio Riboli, from Imperial College London, said: "We were surprised to see the waist size having such a powerful effect on people's health and premature death.

"There aren't many simple individual characteristics that can increase a person's risk of premature death to this extent, independently from smoking and drinking."

But he said that the indicator was a simple and cheap test to assess aspects of health. For example, men with waists exceeding 47 inches had a doubled rate of death compared with those with waists under 31.5 inches.

 

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