Waist circumference (WC) may be the best anthropometric index for identifying individuals at risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes mellitus (DM). The objectives of this study were to determine if the relationship between WC and metabolic risk factors is similar in men and women of Chinese and European descent, and to assess the effect of ethnicity on these relationships. Apparently healthy men and women of Chinese (n = 92) and European (n = 99) descent were recruited from hospital staff and assessed for anthropometric variables and blood pressure (BP), lipids, insulin, and glucose. The study cohort was stratified by sex, and regression analyses were performed with the various metabolic risk factors as the outcome and WC and ethnicity as predictors. Chinese men and women had significantly lower WC than European men and women. Age and metabolic risk factors were similar between the 2 ethnic groups except for BP. Metabolic risk factors significantly correlated with WC within each gender and ethnic cohort. In men, ethnicity was an independent predictor for total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), triglycerides (TG), and the ratio of TC to high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) after controlling for WC. In women, ethnicity significantly interacted with WC as an independent predictor of TG, TC:HDL-C ratio, insulin, and glucose. As ethnic descent modifies the relationship between WC and metabolic risk factors, current WC targets derived from relationships in European populations are not applicable to Chinese men and women. Therefore, ethnic background should be considered when using WC as a marker of cardiovascular risk.
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