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NMU 42 – Waist Circumference: A Key Health Risk Indicator

Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update No. 42 (February 17, 2017)

with Dr. James Meschino


Research Topic: Waist Circumference: A Key Health Risk Indicator

Source: Sports and Exercise Nutrition 4th Edition (Textbook), Pages 450 and 487: (W. McKardle, F. Katch, V. Katch)

I’d like to introduce you to three of the most famous people in the world of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. In fact, they have authored some of the induystry- standard textbooks on these subjects for medical, exercise physiology and nutrition students.

These three individuals are:

  • William McArdle
  • Frank Katch
  • Victor Katch

The second book, Waist Circumference – A Key Health Risk Indicator, should be a mandatory reference book for any health professional providing nutrition advice to athletes of any kind. This book ties together important links between diet, exercise, training, exercise performance and assessment of health parameters. On page 450, they cite the studies that show how important a person’s waist circumference is in assessing health risks for many conditions. In other words, we have known for a long time that if a man has a waist circumference at or above 35.4 inches, or if a woman has a waist circumference at or above 32.7 inches, that it puts them at increased risk for heart and cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, various cancers (including breast, endometrial, prostate and colon cancers), macular degeneration of the eye (the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 55), and all-cause mortality (greater chance of dying from all causes combined, compared to people with a lower waist circumference). The higher the waist circumference, the greater the risk. By the time a man’s waist circumference is over 40.2 inches, or a woman’s waist circumference is over 36.6 inches it correlates with a very high risk of developing the diseases that I just mentioned, as well as all-cause mortality.

Waist circumference is such a strong predictor of a person’s health risk, they state that it is the measurement of choice to evaluate health risks when more precise assessments are impractical. It’s a very reliable risk factor.

So, all you need to do is get a tape measure and measure the distance around your abdomen at the level of your belly button. If you’re a man, and your measurement is at or above 35.4 inches, or if you’re a woman and your measurement is at or above 32.7 inches, then you have some work to do lower your health risks for these common and serious conditions.

They make another great point, and that is that if an overweight person simply reduces their calorie intake by just 100 calories per day (which is very easy to do), and simply increase the calories they burn via physical activity by 100 calories per day (stationary cycling for 20 minutes, power walking for 15-20 minutes), by the end of one year they would lose 21 pounds of body fat. That would get a lot of people back to a waist circumference that’s in the safe and healthy range.

If you need to get back to a healthy waist circumference, or know someone else that would benefit from this simple strategy, then I suggest you put this easy-to-follow action plan into motion, or forward this information to the person you know who is looking for a non-stressful way to get back to a healthier weight and waist circumference.

Bottom line: Keep an eye on your waist circumference over your lifetime. It’s an important health risk marker and something you can track and monitor on yourself to help hold yourself accountable to health-promoting dietary and exercise practices. Measure it every six months. It’s easy to do, and eat and exercise in a way that keeps it in the ideal range.

Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great!

Dr. Meschino

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