The average waist size ballooned more than an inch — from 37.6 inches to 38.8 inches — between 1999 and 2012, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers found.
While men’s waists increased less than an inch — about 0.8 of an inch on average — women’s midriffs grew about twice that, or 1.5 inches, said study researcher Dr. Earl Ford, a medical officer at the CDC.
“Carrying a large belly even in the normal weight range has health implications,” said Dr. James Cerhan, lead author of the study and professor of epidemiology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Waistlines larger than 35 inches for women and more than 40 inches for men are considered abdominal obesity, a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes.
For one study, published Sept. 17 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Ford and his colleagues used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) on nearly 33,000 men and women ages 20 and older.
No single reason for the bulking up stood out. But the researchers speculated that sleep disruption, certain medications and everyday chemicals known to be endocrine disruptors possibly play a role.
In the new study, researchers looked at data from 11 different studies that included more than 600,000 people around the world.
Women with a waist circumference of 94 cm (37 inches) had an 80 per cent higher mortality risk than those with waists that were 69 cm (27 inches) or less. For women with larger waists, that translates to a life expectancy five years shorter after age 40.
They found that men who had waists that were 109 cm (43 inches) or larger had twice the mortality risk than men with waists smaller than 89 cm (35 inches). For men with larger waists, this translated to a life expectancy that was three years shorter than their peers after age 40.
Bottom line a big waist means big health problems!