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Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Mar;91(3):547-56. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.28757. Epub 2010 Jan 20.

Comparison of the associations of body mass index and measures of central adiposity and fat mass with coronary heart disease, diabetes, and all-cause mortality: a study using data from 4 UK cohorts.

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Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.



Measures of regional adiposity have been proposed as alternatives to the measurement of body mass index (BMI) for identifying persons at risk of future disease.


The objective was to compare the magnitudes of association of BMI and alternative measurements of adiposity with coronary heart disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease risk factors and all-cause mortality.


Data from 4 cohorts of adults [3937 women from the British Women's Heart and Health Study (BWHHS); 2367 and 1950 men from phases 1 and 3, respectively, of the Caerphilly Prospective Study (CaPS); 403 men and women from the Boyd Orr Study; and 789 men and women from the Maidstone-Dewsbury Study] were analyzed.


The magnitudes of associations of BMI with incident coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease risk factors were similar to those with measurements of central adiposity [waist circumference (WC), waist-hip ratio (WHR), or waist-height ratio (WHtR)] and more direct measurements of fat mass (bioimpedance/skinfold thickness). In CaPS (men only), there was no strong evidence of differences in the strengths of association with incident diabetes between BMI, WC, WHR, and WHtR (P for heterogeneity > 0.49 for all). In the BWHHS (women only), there was statistical evidence that WC [hazard ratio (HR): 2.35; 95% CI: 2.03, 2.73] and WHtR (HR: 2.29; 95% CI: 1.98, 2.66) were more strongly associated with diabetes than with BMI (HR: 1.80; 95% CI: 1.59, 2.04) (P for heterogeneity < 0.02 for both). Central adiposity measurements were positively associated with all-cause mortality, as was BMI, but only when those with a BMI (in kg/m(2)) <22.5 were removed from the analyses.


No strong evidence supports replacing BMI in clinical or public health practice with other adiposity measures.

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