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JAMA Netw Open. 2019 Jul 3;2(7):e197337. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.7337.

Association of Normal-Weight Central Obesity With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality Among Postmenopausal Women.

Author information

Department of Epidemiology, College of Public Health, University of Iowa, Iowa City.
Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente Northern California, Oakland.
Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York.
Cancer Prevention Program, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington.
Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, School of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla.
Department of Medical Oncology and Therapeutics Research, City of Hope National Medical Center Duarte, Duarte, California.
Division of Preventive Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.
Obesity Research and Education Initiative, University of Iowa, Iowa City.
Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center, University of Iowa, Iowa City.



Current public health guidelines for obesity prevention and control focus on promoting a normal body mass index (BMI), rarely addressing central obesity, which is reflected by high waist circumference (WC) and common in the general population. Studies of the association of normal-weight central obesity with long-term health outcomes are sparse.


To examine associations of normal-weight central obesity with all-cause and cause-specific mortality in postmenopausal women in the United States.

Design, Setting, and Participants:

A nationwide prospective cohort study of 156 624 postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative at 40 clinical centers in the United States between 1993 and 1998. These women were observed through February 2017. Data analysis was performed from September 15, 2017, to March 13, 2019.


Different combinations of BMI (calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared; normal weight: BMI, 18.5-24.9; overweight: BMI, 25.0-29.9; and obesity: BMI, ≥30) and WC (normal: WC, ≤88 cm and high: WC, >88 cm).

Main Outcomes and Measures:

Mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.


Of the 156 624 women (mean [SD] age, 63.2 [7.2] years), during 2 811 187 person-years of follow-up, 43 838 deaths occurred, including 12 965 deaths from cardiovascular disease (29.6%) and 11 828 deaths from cancer (27.0%). Compared with women with normal weight and no central obesity and adjusted for demographic characteristics, socioeconomic status, lifestyle factors, and hormone use, the hazard ratio for all-cause mortality was 1.31 (95% CI, 1.20-1.42) among women with normal weight and central obesity, 0.91 (95% CI, 0.89-0.94) among women with overweight and no central obesity, 1.16 (95% CI, 1.13-1.20) for women with overweight and central obesity, 0.93 (95% CI, 0.89-0.94) for women with obesity and no central obesity, and 1.30 (95% CI, 1.27-1.34) for women with obesity and central obesity. Compared with normal weight without central obesity, normal-weight central obesity was associated with higher risk of cardiovascular disease mortality (hazard ratio, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.05-1.46) and cancer mortality (hazard ratio, 1.20; 95% CI, 1.01-1.43).

Conclusions and Relevance:

Normal-weight central obesity in women was associated with excess risk of mortality, similar to that of women with BMI-defined obesity with central obesity. These findings underscore the need for future public health guidelines to include the prevention and control of central obesity, even in individuals with normal BMI.

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