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Effects of waist to height ratio, waist circumference, body mass index on the risk of chronic diseases, all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality


Background Given the fat redistribution in later stages of life, how the associations between abdominal obesity and the risk of morbidity and mortality have changed with age have not been elucidated, especially for waist to height ratio (WHtR).

Objective To compare the strength of association between obesity indices and chronic diseases at baseline, and the subsequent mortality risk among US adults.

Methods We included 21 109 participants from National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999–2014. We performed logistic regression and receiver operating curve analysis to examine the discriminatory power of obesity indicators on cardiometabolic diseases and cancer at baseline. Sex-stratified and age-stratified Cox models were constructed to explore the prospective association between obesity indices and all-cause, cardiovascular and cancer mortality.

Results Elevated WHtR, elevated waist circumference (WC) and body mass index (BMI)-classified obesity are associated with higher odds of hypertension (OR: 1.37-2.13), dyslipidemia (OR: 1.06 to 1.75, all p<0.05) and diabetes (OR: 1.40-3.16, all p<0.05). WHtR had significantly better discriminatory power to predict cardiometabolic health than BMI, especially for diabetes (area under the curve: 0.709 vs 0.654). After multivariable adjustment, all obesity indicators are associated with lower risk of all-cause mortality among females aged ≥65 years (HR: 0.64 to 0.85), but the association was only significant for BMI when obesity indicators were mutually adjusted (HR: 0.79).

Conclusions WHtR and WC appeared to be the better indicators for cardiometabolic health than BMI. However, BMI had a stronger and inverse association with a greater risk of all-cause mortality among older females.

  • epidemiology

Data availability statement

Data are available in a public, open access repository.

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