Discrimination of health risk by combined body mass index and waist circumference

Obes Res. 2003 Jan;11(1):135-42. doi: 10.1038/oby.2003.22.


Objective: NIH Clinical Guidelines (1998) recommend the measurement of waist circumference (WC, centimeters) within body mass index (BMI, kilograms per square meter) categories as a screening tool for increased health risk.

Research methods and procedures: The Canada Heart Health Surveys (1986 through 1992) were used to describe the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome in Canada and to test the use of the NIH guidelines for predicting metabolic risk factors. The sample included 7981 participants ages 20 to 74 years who had complete data for WC, BMI, high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol, triglycerides, diabetic status, and systolic and diastolic blood pressures. National Cholesterol Education Program Adult Treatment Panel III risk categories were used to identify the metabolic syndrome and associated risk factors. Logistic regression was used to test the hypothesis that WC improves the prediction of the metabolic syndrome, within overweight (25 to 29.9 kg/m(2)) and obese I (30 to 34.9 kg/m(2)) BMI categories.

Results: The prevalence of the metabolic syndrome was 17.0% in men and 13.2% in women. The odds ratios (OR) for the prediction of the metabolic syndrome were elevated in overweight [OR, 1.85; 95% confidence interval (95%CI), 1.02 to 3.35] and obese (OR, 2.35; 95%CI, 1.25 to 4.42) women with a high WC compared with overweight and obese women with a low WC, respectively. On the other hand, WC was not predictive of the metabolic syndrome or component risk factors in men, within BMI categories.

Discussion: In women already at increased health risk because of an elevated BMI, the additional measurement of WC may help identify cardiovascular risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blood Pressure
  • Body Constitution*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Metabolic Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.)
  • Odds Ratio
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • United States


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Triglycerides