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Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008 Dec;16(12):2690-5. doi: 10.1038/oby.2008.438. Epub 2008 Oct 16.

Influence of central and extremity circumferences on all-cause mortality in men and women.

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School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.


For a given level of adiposity, greater lower body circumferences appear to exert a protective effect on several disease outcomes including cardiovascular disease and diabetes; however, the independent associations between extremity circumferences and mortality have not been widely investigated. The purpose of this study was to determine the independent and shared influences of upper- and lower-body circumferences on the risk of mortality in a population-based sample of adults. The sample included 10,638 adults 20-69 years of age (5,012 men; 5,626 women) from the nationally representative 1981 Canada Fitness Survey (CFS), who were monitored for over 12 years for mortality. BMI was calculated from measured height and weight. Waist, hip, thigh, calf, and upper arm circumferences were measured using a flexible, nonelastic anthropometric tape. Sex-specific proportional hazards regression models were used to evaluate the relationship between standardized values (Z-scores) of extremity circumference measures, waist circumference (WC) and mortality. Age, smoking status, alcohol consumption, and leisure-time physical activity were collected by questionnaire and were included as covariates. During 131,563 person-years of follow-up, there were 340 deaths in men and 231 in women. After mutual adjustment, WC was positively associated with mortality whereas arm, thigh, and calf circumferences were significantly protective in men, and arm and thigh circumferences were protective in women. In conclusion, waist and extremity circumferences appear to have opposite, independent effects on mortality in this sample of Canadians. Independent of BMI and WC, men and women with larger extremity circumferences had a lower risk of mortality.

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