Location of Body Fat Important in Determining Health Risks

Updated: 03/13/2014 11:03 PM
Created: 03/13/2014 10:49 PM
By: Jenna Lohse

(ABC 6 News) -- The warmer temps we saw today had many getting active outdoors for the first time this year, and that's a good thing. We all tend to gain a little weight over the winter and a new Mayo Clinic study is raising concerns about where some of that weight is located.

"Just going for a run, it's a nice day out,” said Molly Erdmann of Rochester.

Thursday, parks filled with people with spring fever.

"We thought there would be a few less puddles, but there aren't,” said Peg Anderson of Rochester.

While there's still some obstacles along the way with all the puddles, the idea of getting active after a rough winter is a popular one.

"It's very good to get exercise instead of sitting and talking,” said Anderson.

That's the same advice Mayo Clinic is giving those who carry too much fat around their waist. Mayo says belly fat isn't just unwanted, it's downright dangerous.

"BMI is not a perfect measure, there’s a couple issues with it,” said Dr. James Curhan with Mayo Clinic.

Researchers studied more than 600,000 people worldwide. They found that a healthy BMI or body mass index isn't the only thing people should be concerned about. In fact, those with large waist circumferences are more likely to die younger, no matter what their BMI level.

"Where people would say oh well you’re normal, you don't have to worry, we actually saw elevated risks occurring there, so this applies across the BMI spectrum, not just at the high ends,” said Dr. Curhan.

The study found women who measure 37 inches or more around the waist have an 80% higher risk of dying than those whose bellies are 10 inches smaller.

"It sucks because you can be in shape and have a big waist circumference and you're still at risk,” said Erdmann.

Mayo Clinic says for those at risk, just trimming down a couple inches through diet and exercise could have important health benefits.

"I think it's just one more factor, but it's going to give us evidence and maybe give us a little more motivation,” said Anderson.

Mayo Clinic also found those with a larger waist circumference are more likely to die from illnesses like heart disease, respiratory problems and cancer.