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Waist Circumference Less Than Half Your Height

Waist-to-height ratio may be a better predictor of disease than body mass index.

September 6, 2012 |
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Supplementary Info

Sources Cited


Images thanks to: InvictaHOG, BotMultichillT, and Richard2902 via Wikimedia Commons.


Body mass index is a better predictor of disease than body weight since it takes height into account, but it doesn’t say what or where that mass is. Body-builders can have huge BMIs, especially since muscle is heavier than fat. It doesn't mean they're obese.

It is now accepted… that health risks can be determined as much by the relative distribution of the excess fat as by its total amount. It’s not so much body fat, but visceral fat, abdominal fat the fat around our internal organs that most increases our risk of dying prematurely. All these women… have the exact same BMI, but it's the people with this so-called apple shape that tend to live the shortest. Waist circumference.. takes care of both the what and where of the weight, but can also be affected by, height... Enter: the waist to height ratio. Move over BMI; now we have WHR.

“A systematic review of waist-to-height ratio as a screening tool for the prediction of cardiovascular disease and diabetes” was recently published--the first of its kind, concluding WHR was superior and the cut-off should be one to two “supporting the simple public health message ‘keep your waist circumference to less than half your height.”

It is cheaper… more convenient--no scale required--and most importantly, more sensitive as an early warning sign of health risks to come.

Take a cloth measuring tape and measure halfway between the top of your hip bones and the bottom of your ribcage. Stand up straight but breathe deep, exhale, let it all hang out and that measurement should be half our height, and if it’s not, we should cut down on your consumption of meat, as we just went over, but also your consumption of refined plant foods, whereas at least 3 servings a day of whole grains was recently associated with a slimmer waist in the Framingham Heart Study.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Kerry Skinner.

To help out on the site please email

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

The relationship between meat and weight gain was covered in Tuesday's video-of-the-day Meat and Weight Gain in the PANACEA Study (along with a response from the meat industry: Cattlemen’s Association Has Beef With Study). I have about a dozen other videos on body fat, and hundreds of videos on a thousand other topics.

For some context, please check out my associated blog posts: Diet vs. Exercise: What’s More Important? and Diet and Cellulite 

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Michael Greger M.D.

    The relationship between meat circumference and weight gain was covered in Tuesday’s video-of-the-day Meat and Weight Gain in the PANACEA Study (along with a response from the meat industry: Cattlemen’s Association Has Beef With EPIC Study). I have about a dozen other videos on body fat, and hundreds of videos on a thousand other topics.

    If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

    • HemoDynamic, M.D.

      How ’bout them Apples!


    • HemoDynamic, M.D.

      Out with the weight and in with the Shape!

      New frool (Fruit/Tool) in my arsenal!
      Thanks as always!

      • Veganrunner

        Dr hemo where did Dr SJ go? I so enjoyed his input…..

        • HemoDynamic, M.D.

          Got a bit fed up with some of the comments.  He’s doing well though.
          I agree I enjoyed his input as well.

          • Veganrunner

            Dr. SJ just ignore the negative comments. Are you still coming to Southern California? 

  • Terry

    So, how do add 26″ to my height? :-)

    • Paulc

       You’ll have to do a lot of stretching, Terry. Maybe you can find a used torturer’s  rack on Ebay. The other option is of course to discipline yourself with a healthy plant-strong diet- which will no doubt be less torture that a heart attack. 

    • Coach Terp

      I took the precise 13″ off the waist you seek by doing what the good doc prescribes; drop the processed, added sugars, meat, dairy, et al, and it melts away like…butter. :)

  • Paulc

    The waist-to-height ratio will tell us if we’re overweight- But how can we use it to tell if we’re underweight? 

    • Ken Lyle

       Good question.  Maybe if your pants fall down, or if you don’t have enough muscle to do 10 pullups, or bench press your weight.

      • Strix

         Oh, oh, ten? I don’t know if I can do that many any longer! I need to re-install my pullups bar. Thanks for the reminder :^)

    • Strix

       I’ve wondered how dangerous being underweight is. But first to determine what is *truly* underweight! It’s surely different from the conventional standards. If we go by averages of the population, we’re in BiG trouble :^)

  • CZ

    My BMI is 16.4 and my waist circumference to height ratio is 0.42. I am often told that I am too skinny. I am not putting on any weight on a vegan diet that includes little to no refined sugars. Should I still be on a vegan diet and/or how can I put on weight on this diet?

    • Toxins

      Everyone loses some weight on a vegan diet but this weight stabilizes. You do not continue to lose it unless you in a caloric deficit which I doubt is the case unless your starving. You will look skinnier then the average person but this is completely normal and healthy. I have been told I look skinnier as well when I went vegan because my facial bones were slightly more pronounced but my weight hasn’t changed in nearly 2 years

    • one4All

      Do you like Peanut Butter Sandwiches?
      You can buy Bread that is nothing but Whole Grain and Yeast
      and Peanut butter that is Nothing but Peanuts
      If you are Obsessed with ‘Purity’
      Eat an Extra FOUR every Day and you will be OK

  • Rachel

    Hight 67 inches (5ft 6In) divided by 2 = 33.5. My waist measures at 28 inches. So I am 5.5 inches under the maximum waist circumference :) I currently weigh 134 lbs, though this is not “over weight” its all about how you feel. I am currently lifting and doing cardio 20-60minutes everyday, i rarely eat meat (maybe 2x a week I’ll have chicken). Sugar however is my shameful weakness. Where i work we have free snacks available, from ice cream to cheetos. Its extremely difficult to say no to them, especially when I’m constantly asked why aren’t i eating. I don’t have sweets at home…but i do have honey and cereal and fruit. I feel like my sweet obsession is whats in my way to achieving a flat tummy.

  • one4All

    The person in the Photo is a Pumped-Up Steroid Injecting FREAK and really should NOT be considered anything but a ‘CAUTIONARY TALE’ and CERTAINLY not a role model for healthy Living.