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Atherosclerosis. 1991 Feb;86(2-3):251-60.

Body fat distribution in relation to serum lipids and blood pressure in 38-year-old European men: the European fat distribution study.

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  • 1Department of Human Nutrition, Wageningen University, The Netherlands.


A study on 512 38-year-old European men selected from 6 different towns was conducted. There were significant differences between the centers in averages of anthropometric variables (except for thigh circumference), serum lipids (except for LDL-cholesterol), and blood pressure. In the pooled material, body mass index (BMI) as well as waist circumference, waist/hip ratio and waist/thigh ratio and subscapular skinfold were positively correlated to serum triglycerides, total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and blood pressure and negatively with HDL-cholesterol. After adjustment for BMI, waist, waist/hip, and waist/thigh were all still significantly correlated with serum triglycerides (P less than 0.001). In addition, waist/hip and waist/thigh ratio showed significant partial correlations with total cholesterol (r = 0.16, P less than 0.001, r = 0.10, P less than 0.05 respectively), and diastolic blood pressure (r = 0.10, P less than 0.05, r = 0.09, P less than 0.05 respectively). In addition, waist/hip was, independently of BMI, correlated to LDL-cholesterol (r = 0.12, P less than 0.01), and waist/thigh ratio with HDL-cholesterol (r = -0.12, P less than 0.01). The partial association between waist/thigh with HDL cholesterol became insignificant after adjustment for smoking habits and physical activity. Adjustment for differences in anthropometric measurements did not explain the differences in serum lipids and blood pressure between the centers. The authors conclude that indicators of body fat distribution are associated with unfavorable risk profiles for cardiovascular disease in European men covering a large geographical and cultural variety and a wide range of body measurements and cardiovascular risk factors.

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