Waist Circumference Less than Half Your Height

Waist Circumference Less than Half Your Height
4.62 (92.38%) 21 votes

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

Discuss
Republish

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.

42 responses to “Waist Circumference Less than Half Your Height

Comment Etiquette

On NutritionFacts.org, you'll find a vibrant community of nutrition enthusiasts, health professionals, and many knowledgeable users seeking to discover the healthiest diet to eat for themselves and their families. As always, our goal is to foster conversations that are insightful, engaging, and most of all, helpful – from the nutrition beginners to the experts in our community.

To do this we need your help, so here are some basic guidelines to get you started.

The Short List

To help maintain and foster a welcoming atmosphere in our comments, please refrain from rude comments, name-calling, and responding to posts that break the rules (see our full Community Guidelines for more details). We will remove any posts in violation of our rules when we see it, which will, unfortunately, include any nicer comments that may have been made in response.

Be respectful and help out our staff and volunteer health supporters by actively not replying to comments that are breaking the rules. Instead, please flag or report them by submitting a ticket to our help desk. NutritionFacts.org is made up of an incredible staff and many dedicated volunteers that work hard to ensure that the comments section runs smoothly and we spend a great deal of time reading comments from our community members.

Have a correction or suggestion for video or blog? Please contact us to let us know. Submitting a correction this way will result in a quicker fix than commenting on a thread with a suggestion or correction.

View the Full Community Guidelines

    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. 

    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 :^)

  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?

  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?

    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

    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

  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.

  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.

  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?

    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!

      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?

        1. Hi Lauren and Kelly,
          Yes it is possible to get your pre baby body back.
          We have three kids and my wife is well under the height to weight ratio.
          We all eat whole food plant based, although the kids have exception with friends, to keep it social and unstressed.

          The key is to follow the daily dozen for what to include in your diet, and exclude all animal based products full stop.
          Remembering that one of the dozen is exercise.
          And just keep doing it. It may take a year, but your body will return to its optimal size. As will hubby :)

          I know it is very tough to change eating patterns for a family, but it can be done, and everyone benefits.

  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.

    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!

      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?

        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.

          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?

        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!

  7. I need help. I am vegan by 4 years and i follow Greger diet by 3 mounths and i am not able to lose weight. I am a girl 22 y.o i am 77 kg and 173cm. My waist circonference is 86. I take a lot of matcha tee and coffee, i eat beans and grains all intact whole at every meal and i eat all fruit and vegetable without limit. Maybe do i control my kcal intake? I follow daily dozien but sometime i eat legums until I am sodisfaied

  8. We’re happy to help. First question: are you sure you are eating everything completely unprocessed? It would be helpful if you list everything you eat in a day and if/what your “cheat days” look like.

    If you really are eating all unprocessed foods with no cheat days. Here are a couple pointers as long as you are healthy and don’t have any metabolic or endocrine disorders like diabetes.
    1) You may find that you are eating too high calorie density foods to lose weight. In this case, you could go totally raw by eating nothing but fresh/frozen fruits and raw vegetables. This would cut your calorie density automatically. Examples of great raw veggies to mix with your fruit are: sweet potato, carrots, kale, spinach, asparagus, cabbage, broccoli.
    2) Make sure you have a very accurate scale and do not weigh yourself more than once per week as your weight can fluctuate a lot due to water retention
    3) Make sure you get at least 1/2 hour of exercise daily.

    Dr. Ben

    1. Thank you for suggestion, really! The point was that before I eat to much grains and beans even if whole and even i do 2 hours of exercise every day. I believed after had studied all video of Greger, that i can eat beans even in surplus without weight gain, thinking that kcal counting dont metter. However i had recontrol my weight now was 73. I dont want eat only raw and without my beans!:( my body fat is 29% and i dont like my body:(

      1. I dont have cheap day and i work like garden and often i do very hard work, Burning sometimes 3000kcal but often 2500. i became thinking my weight scale it too much old and it wrong. Now I use too Cronometer. And i will buy a now weight scale. I before ate 400gr of dried beans and 80gr oat brain, and 2 kg of carrot. Then the vegetable thai i can effort and, i admit, 250 gr of pulms dried and the fruit that i find, like pineapple and apple or orange. I am not rich, so for me take the kcal from beans or grains in some days is the only way. If i can effort amla , acai, bluberryes ,and the best food at every meal, maybe i dont have this problems. But they are for riches people, here in italy for me is impossible to buy. Thinking i have to reach my 2500 kcal from kale and berry is not possible in this life for me!

      2. I totally understand what you’re saying. You can gain weight eating grains and beans depending on the other things that you eat, that is why I asked for a list of foods that you’re eating so i can help you figure out what the problem is. Since any weight gain is coming from the food, I can only help if you post a food list.

        Dr. Ben

      3. Hi Marian- It is possible that you’re eating a bit too much of high calorie density foods, like grains and beans. Since you’re now keeping track of calories, I’d rec that you lower your intake by about 500 calories per day and reassess your weight trend in two weeks. You are shooting to have a BMI from 18.5-24 and a waist circumference smaller than your hip circumference. If you have access to accurate measurement of your basal metabolic rate (here, sometimes called a “Bod Pod,” that can be very helpful to set a daily calorie goal. I myself was shocked to learn that, with moderate daily exercise, taking in more than 1500 calories per day would lead to gradual weight gain. Everyone is different, and accurate, individual measurement can be very useful. Best luck! -Dr Anderson, Health Support Volunteer

  9. How you Want. This is a list of serving of food that i eat in a week.
    red cabbage, 300gr with apple vinegar
    Apple 2 for day red with cinnamon
    Apple vinegar 4 tablespoon
    A tablespoon of protein of soy isolate(for arginine burne fat)
    Terre tablespoon of the mathca
    4 serving of ibisco tea
    Two filtred coffee (less acrilammide)
    A serving of flaxseed
    10 almond raw
    A pineapple
    A cup of peas microwaving from forzen or lentils or split peas dried or lupins without salt or other legums fast to prepare without salt
    A cup of whole spelled intact grain or whole pasta or popcorn without oil without salt
    6 carrot boiled
    One onions boiler
    Rarly i like drink milk Soy, but when i do, i drink 800 ml (i know is too much but i like)
    Baked pumpink
    beat root 2
    two cup spinach cooked from frozen
    Orange 5 a day
    15 plums (i know have sorbate potassium but i can buy only this)
    Artikole 4 i like very much
    A handfull of rasins they have add a 0,5gr of oil from sunseed on 100 gr ( i think is very little )
    Tomatoes concentrate 3 tablespoon
    Broccoli steamed I can eat 400 gr
    Fennel bulb 2 pices
    Brain oat 10 tablespoon
    Now tell me were I wrong.
    You must know that I time in 3 or 4 mounths I feel need to salt, I feel bad and I need salt. I don’t know way. If you want know other tell me.

  10. For exercise do you mean hard trying or even walking for pleasure? You must know I am an ex obese, when I was 14y.o I was 112 kg, so I maybe have enormous stomach and I can eat more that normal;( by when I am vegan all is better, but you know, I want be an exemple for other person and for this I ask for you, and you are the only true science in healthy field, I trust you. I had done high school scientific range and I understood easily you. You must know too that I had a post traumatic disturbe from stress, and I know that I eat even for stress or bad feeling, or sometimes I don’t do exercise because I am too sad for so everything. I stay work for but it is hard for me. Thank you with all my heart, I hope will be exemples better than me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This