Waistlines keep expanding, even as obesity rates hold steady

Oct. 4, 2014—The waistlines of American adults are expanding, according to data published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) by a researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and colleagues.

That may help the bottom lines of companies that make pants and skirts with elastic waists. But it’s bad news for the country’s health, because it suggests that the number of Americans with metabolic syndrome won’t be falling anytime soon.

Despite the fact that obesity rates in the United States have stopped climbing, the fat stored around our waists, stomachs and abdomens has increased.

Why abdominal fat is important

The researchers used waistline circumference as a measure of abdominal fat. Men whose waistlines were over 40.2 inches and women whose waistlines were over 34.6 inches were classified as having abdominal obesity.

Abdominal obesity is one of the risk factors for metabolic syndrome—a cluster of conditions that make you vulnerable to serious health problems.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), those who have metabolic syndrome are about twice as likely to develop heart disease and five times as likely to get type 2 diabetes as someone without the syndrome. Metabolic syndrome also increases risk for stroke.

About the measurements

The researchers looked at waistline measurements of 32,816 adults that were recorded during seven separate National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 1999 through 2012. The study included data from men and nonpregnant women age 20 and older.

Waistlines grew steadily over those 14 years. Some of the more significant increases were seen in women, non-Hispanic whites, non-Hispanic blacks and Mexican Americans. On average, the waistlines in these groups increased an average of 1.5 inches.

The study found that, overall, the number of adults with abdominal obesity jumped from 46.4 percent of adults to 54.2 percent. The study was published as a research letter in the Sept. 17 issue of JAMA and can be accessed online.

The take-home message
Weight gain that occurs around the abdomen area could indicate abdominal obesity—a growing problem among American adults. As noted by the NHLBI, abdominal obesity is a risk factor of metabolic syndrome. To be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, a person must have at least three of the following risk factors:

  • A large waistline
  • High triglyceride levels—a type of fat found within the blood
  • A low level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL)—the good cholesterol—in the blood
  • High blood pressure
  • High fasting blood sugar

According to the NHLBI, metabolic syndrome could replace smoking as the leading risk factor for heart disease.

To help prevent or control metabolic syndrome, it is important to talk to your doctor if you have experienced a growing waistline. If your doctor has advised you to lose weight, ask him or her about proven strategies for weight loss.

Learn some steps that can help set you on the path to success here.


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