Comparison of abdominal adiposity and overall obesity in predicting risk of type 2 diabetes among men

Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Mar;81(3):555-63. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/81.3.555.


Background: Obesity is a strong risk factor for type 2 diabetes. However, few studies have compared the predictive power of overall obesity with that of central obesity. The cutoffs for waist circumference (WC) and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) as measures of abdominal adiposity remain controversial.

Objective: The objective was to compare body mass index (BMI), WC, and WHR in predicting type 2 diabetes.

Design: A prospective cohort study (Health Professionals Follow-Up Study) of 27 270 men was conducted. WC, WHR, and BMI were assessed at baseline. Covariates and potential confounders were assessed repeatedly during the follow-up.

Results: During 13 y of follow-up, we documented 884 incident type 2 diabetes cases. Age-adjusted relative risks (RRs) across quintiles of WC were 1.0, 2.0, 2.7, 5.0, and 12.0; those of WHR were 1.0, 2.1, 2.7, 3.6, and 6.9; and those of BMI were 1.0, 1.1, 1.8, 2.9, and 7.9 (P for trend < 0.0001 for all). Multivariate adjustment for diabetes risk factors only slightly attenuated these RRs. Adjustment for BMI substantially attenuated RRs for both WC and WHR. The receiver operator characteristic curve analysis indicated that WC and BMI were similar and were better than WHR in predicting type 2 diabetes. The cumulative proportions of type 2 diabetes cases identified according to medians of BMI (>/=24.8), WC (>/=94 cm), and WHR (>/=0.94) were 82.5%, 83.6%, and 74.1%, respectively. The corresponding proportions were 78.9%, 50.5%, and 65.7% according to the recommended cutoffs.

Conclusions: Both overall and abdominal adiposity strongly and independently predict risk of type 2 diabetes. WC is a better predictor than is WHR. The currently recommended cutoff for WC of 102 cm for men may need to be reevaluated; a lower cutoff may be more appropriate.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen / anatomy & histology
  • Adipose Tissue / anatomy & histology*
  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Aged
  • Body Composition / physiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / etiology*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Reference Standards
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Waist-Hip Ratio*