Forget Your BMI, and Look at Your Belly

Exploring Intensity

Forget Your BMI, and Look at Your Belly

This is one of those studies that we hate to talk about. It both uses extensive data and points to one thing that many of us can’t seem to lose even if we’re constantly exercising — our beer bellies.

Researchers followed over 15,000 people for 14 years and paid very close attention to their waist-to-hip ratio. This, unlike the standard BMI measurement, is considered a more accurate way to determine if someone is truly overweight or if they just have muscle mass that pushes up the scale.

The researchers controlled for everyting from tobacco use to race and poverty levels. In other words, it was pretty sound methodology, and they came up with some very unfortunate findings: “[A] man of normal B.M.I. with an abnormally large belly has an 87 percent higher risk for death than a man with the same B.M.I. but an average waist-to-hip ratio. Pot-bellied women of normal B.M.I. have a 48 percent higher risk than women with normal B.M.I. and normal belly fat.”

This is some pretty bad news for people who are feeling good about everything except what droops over their jeans. And the study showed that people who are overweight but have an expected waist-to-hip ratio may be in better health than thinner people with more visceral fat around their stomach.

So what does this mean? Mostly, you can’t take your weight for granted, even if you are falling into a normal weight according to a BMI scale. If the weight is concentrated where it looks like you are hiding a small basketball under your shirt, then you need to figure out how to change something in your diet and daily routine.