Why is waist-hip ratio important?

A study found that waist-to-hip ratio is a better predictor of heart-related events and death in people with type 2 diabetes than body mass index (BMI). Waist-to-hip ratio is determined by measuring around your belly and dividing that by the measurement around your hips. It details the proportion of fat you have between your belly, hips, and buttocks.

Around 90% of people with type 2 diabetes are apple-shape, which means most of their body fat is stored in their waist area. People with a normal BMI but a high waist-to-hip ratio and apple shape are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics

The waist-to-hip ratio is a quick, easy method to estimate body composition and describe body proportions. It is a common measure that shows the degree of a person’s abdominal fat. Storing excessive fat in the abdominal region (known as the "apple" shape) is correlated with an increased disease risk; this test is one way to measure your risk for lifestyle and weight-related diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and more. Storing fat in your lower half, known as a "Pear" shape, is actually a healthier site for fat accumulation. The less common "avocado" shape is somewhere between an apple and a pear, with health risks higher than a pear-shaped person, but somewhat lower than a true apple-shaped person.

Waist to hip ration is simply a measurement of waist size compared to hip size. This is an important measurement because it is a good indicator of visceral fat. Fat which resides in the abdominal area is more closely linked to chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. When you track waist to hip ration you can track effectiveness of exercise when you notice a decrease in waist size.

Your WHR is important because research suggests that if you are carrying excess fat around the waist, this abdominal -- or visceral -- fat makes you more likely to develop health problems, compared to people who carry fat mainly in their hips and thighs.

Excess visceral fat is linked to abnormalities, such as insulin resistance and an increase in LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, both of which are risk factors for heart disease. Visceral fat also can be a factor in the development of metabolic syndrome, another condition that is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Therefore, avoiding an expanding waistline is one way to reduce the risk of heart disease and metabolic syndrome. Any decrease in waist circumference is a positive step toward healthier body fat distribution, regardless of your weight loss.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.