Waist Circumference Less than Half Your Height

Waist Circumference Less than Half Your Height
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Waist-to-height ratio may be a better predictor of disease than body mass index.

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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.

Bodybuilders can have huge BMIs, especially since muscle is heavier than fat. It doesn’t mean they’re obese.

It’s 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 body 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. Now, 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’s cheaper, more convenient (no scale required), and most importantly, more sensitive, as an early warning sign of health risks to come.

You just 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 your height.

And, if it’s not, we should cut down on our consumption of meat, as we just went over, but also our consumption of refined plant foods—whereas at least three 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to InvictaHOGBotMultichillT; 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.

Bodybuilders can have huge BMIs, especially since muscle is heavier than fat. It doesn’t mean they’re obese.

It’s 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 body 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. Now, 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’s cheaper, more convenient (no scale required), and most importantly, more sensitive, as an early warning sign of health risks to come.

You just 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 your height.

And, if it’s not, we should cut down on our consumption of meat, as we just went over, but also our consumption of refined plant foods—whereas at least three 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.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to InvictaHOGBotMultichillT; and Richard2902 via Wikimedia Commons

Doctor's Note

The relationship between meat and weight gain was covered in 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 many other videos on body fat, as well as videos on thousands of other topics.

For more context, be sure to 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.

31 responses to “Waist Circumference Less than Half Your Height

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    1.  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. 




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    1.  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 :^)




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  1. Thank you Dr. Greger and the
    Jesse and Julie Rasch Foundation for a unique and much needed website based on
    nutritional evidence.  I share the link with
    those who seem to be interested and need some worthy information.

    On a lighter note, my Windows
    Internet Explorer 9 has stopped streaming your daily video.  It must be some sort of setting as I can
    stream You Tube and another user on my computer, using Internet
    Explorer9, has no problems.  Am I
    alone?  Any suggestions?




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  2. 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?




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    1. 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




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    2. 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




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  3. 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.




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  4. 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.




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  5. I’m currently working to lose some weight and would like to use waistline instead of BMI as the measure of my success. My waist-to-height number would be 32. However, I didn’t have that waistline even at twelve years old! So, is my body even capable of experiencing this trim waistline? Or should I shoot for my high school/college waistline of 37 instead?




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    1. So, I have lost 40 pounds in the last 5 months, which is great, but my waistline only decreased by 4 inches – 45 to 41. I am planning on losing 30 more pounds to get to an acceptable BMI level, but at the rate I am going I still won’t get anywhere close to the 32 inch waistline. Any chance that a mom of four kids can get a little more leniency in these numbers? I can even imagine 32 inches being physically possible unless I starved myself!




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      1. I’m wondering the same thing about post children bearing bodies. I’ve had three children. My BMI is on the high end of the ideal range but I still have 5 inches to lose on my waist. Being only five feet tall it gives me a 30″ waist to work for. Is it possible?




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  6. I have been eating the “Dr. Gregor” way for 5 months.
    My waistline is expanding. I can no longer button my pants.
    I feel frustrated and betrayed.




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    1. Hi Susan! Would you be willing to tell me a little more? I’m a registered dietitian and nutrition moderator for NutritionFacts.org – I’d be happy to help!




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      1. My mother has been following Dr Greger’s plant based whole foods diet for the past 4 mos and has lost a fair amount of weight. She is 78 years old and is unable to exercise due to arthritis. Her weight loss and improved health have resulted in a decrease of blood pressure rx and a discontinuance of prescribed diuretics. Despite these positives, her healthcare provider is very concerned about her weight loss citing articles and studies that show lower mortality rates for moderately overweight elderly. Understandably, my mother is confused. Should she strive to be moderately overweight or continue down the path of healthful nutrient rich diet that has resulted in loss of pounds? Thoughts? What are the reasons behind these obese-positive results?




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        1. Leslie: I’m sure Moderator Katie will reply to you when she can. In the meant time, I thought I would offer some thoughts in the hopes of being helpful.
          .
          To have an accurate discussion on the topic, we’d have to really investigate the studies in question. However, even with not seeing them (and I’m not really qualified to review them anyway), my understanding is that these are poorly done studies showing reverse causation. I’m sure you have heard the well-worn phrase: association does not equal causation. In this case, it’s usually a situation of disease causing lower weight rather than lower weight causing disease. And when people get diseases, they die sooner.
          .
          That just leaves overweight seniors looking better in certain studies. However, we know that being overweight is a disease risk factor in and of itself. There is nothing to suggest, in my opinion, that being obese is a health advantage. It seems to me that your mother’s weight loss is one more advantage to her diet. If your mother were losing weight through cancer, I would agree that there is a problem. But she’s losing weight by eating healthy foods. Assuming she is getting enough calories to maintain a healthy weight, I can’t imagine how a doctor would see that as a problem.
          .
          I’m not a doctor and I don’t know your mother. But everything you described sounds very healthy to me. You did not describe your mother as going underweight. Just getting to a healthy weight. Sadly, a healthy weight has started to look too skinny in our society because we are so used to seeing fat people. I don’t know why your doctor does not understand the studies you are talking about, but I wonder if he/she is just very confused about what a healthy person looks like.
          .
          Those are my thoughts. I hope it helps.




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          1. Leslie: After writing the above post to you, I just happened to come across a recent e-mail from PCRM (Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine) that addresses this very topic. PCRM is very responsible in the way that they evaluate and report on scientific studies. Check out this:
            .
            Overweight and Obesity Increase Risk for Early Death
            Overweight and obesity increase the risk of premature death from cancer, heart disease, and other conditions, according to a meta-analysis published online in The Lancet. Researchers examined 239 studies that tracked BMI and mortality rates for 10,625,411 participants across four continents. Those who were overweight or obese were up to three times more likely to die early from disease, compared with those with healthy BMIs, and the risk increased as BMI rose. These findings highlight the risk of all-cause mortality related to overweight and suggest the importance of preventive measures.
            .
            From: The Global BMI Mortality Collaboration. Body-mass index and all-cause mortality: individual participant-data meta-analysis of 239 prospective studies in four continents. Lancet. Published online July 13, 2016.
            .
            Maybe if you show something like this to your mom, it will make her feel better about her choices?




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        2. Hi Lesli – I’m familiar with the idea and research behind lower mortality rates for moderately overweight elderly. However, I personally don’t see a problem if her weight loss has been completely intentional and she’s not to the point where she is now underweight. Ideally, she has a good appetite and is consuming a wide variety of whole, plant-based foods as recommended in Dr. G’s Daily Dozen. Hope your mom continues to benefit from the many wonderful “side effects” from her WFPB diet!




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