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Like We Needed Another Reason to Dislike the Small-Waisted

August 10, 2010

I don’t really dislike people with small waists. Really I don’t. I aspire to be one of those people someday,  although it will be a challenge to fit the parameters of a study released yesterday that links a larger waist size to increased risk of death from several major diseases.

The article appears in the latest issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine and is another product of the American Cancer Society‘s Cancer Prevention Study II. I work for the American Cancer Society, for the record.

After adjusting for body mass index (BMI) and other risk factors, people with very large waists (47 inches or larger for men, 42 inches or larger for women) had approximately twice the risk of death from any cause that people with the smallest waist sizes (under about 35 inches for men and under about 30 inches for women).

“Even if you haven’t had a noticeable weight gain, if you notice your waist size increasing that’s an important sign,” said lead author Eric Jacobs, Ph.D., strategic director of pharmacoepidemiology for the Society. “It’s time to eat better and start exercising more.”

Where have we heard that before, besides everywhere?

While I’m not sure I can even dream of the possibility of a 35-inch waist in my lifetime (I think I was there once, when I was in kindergarten and my pants were purchased in the “husky” department), this strikes me as some serious news. The study found that a larger waist was associated with a higher risk of death across all categories of BMI, meaning it didn’t matter whether study participants were of normal weight, overweight or obese. However, among women, the association was strongest for those at a normal weight.

Previous studies have linked larger waist size to inflammation, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, abnormal cholesterol and heart disease, and dementia.

So, where are you when it comes to waist size? You can measure for yourself. Wrap a cloth or plastic measuring tape around your waist at the navel. Don’t suck in your gut, people! This is reality time and denial is not a river in Egypt. Men should have a waist circumference no larger than 40 inches. For women, the limit is 35 inches.

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