Background: Accumulating evidence indicates that abdominal adiposity is positively related to cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk and some other diseases independently of overall adiposity. However, the association of premature death resulting from these diseases with abdominal adiposity has not been widely studied, and findings are inconsistent.
Methods and results: In a prospective cohort study of 44,636 women in the Nurses' Health Study, associations of abdominal adiposity with all-cause and cause-specific mortality were examined. During 16 years of follow-up, 3507 deaths were identified, including 751 cardiovascular deaths and 1748 cancer deaths. After adjustment for body mass index and potential confounders, the relative risks across the lowest to the highest waist circumference quintiles were 1.00, 1.11, 1.17, 1.31, and 1.79 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.47 to 1.98) for all-cause mortality; 1.00, 1.04, 1.04, 1.28, and 1.99 (95% CI, 1.44 to 2.73) for CVD mortality; and 1.00, 1.18, 1.20, 1.34, and 1.63 (95% CI, 1.32 to 2.01) for cancer mortality (all P<0.001 for trend). Among normal-weight women (body mass index, 18.5 to < 25 kg/m(2)), abdominal obesity was significantly associated with elevated CVD mortality: Relative risk associated with waist circumference > or = 88 cm was 3.02 (95% CI, 1.31 to 6.99) and for waist-to-hip ratio > 0.88 was 3.45 (95% CI, 2.02 to 6.92). After adjustment for waist circumference, hip circumference was significantly and inversely associated with CVD mortality.
Conclusions: Anthropometric measures of abdominal adiposity were strongly and positively associated with all-cause, CVD, and cancer mortality independently of body mass index. Elevated waist circumference was associated with significantly increased CVD mortality even among normal-weight women.