Background: Measures of regional adiposity have been proposed as alternatives to the measurement of body mass index (BMI) for identifying persons at risk of future disease.
Objective: The objective was to compare the magnitudes of association of BMI and alternative measurements of adiposity with coronary heart disease, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease risk factors and all-cause mortality.
Design: Data from 4 cohorts of adults [3937 women from the British Women's Heart and Health Study (BWHHS); 2367 and 1950 men from phases 1 and 3, respectively, of the Caerphilly Prospective Study (CaPS); 403 men and women from the Boyd Orr Study; and 789 men and women from the Maidstone-Dewsbury Study] were analyzed.
Results: The magnitudes of associations of BMI with incident coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease risk factors were similar to those with measurements of central adiposity [waist circumference (WC), waist-hip ratio (WHR), or waist-height ratio (WHtR)] and more direct measurements of fat mass (bioimpedance/skinfold thickness). In CaPS (men only), there was no strong evidence of differences in the strengths of association with incident diabetes between BMI, WC, WHR, and WHtR (P for heterogeneity > 0.49 for all). In the BWHHS (women only), there was statistical evidence that WC [hazard ratio (HR): 2.35; 95% CI: 2.03, 2.73] and WHtR (HR: 2.29; 95% CI: 1.98, 2.66) were more strongly associated with diabetes than with BMI (HR: 1.80; 95% CI: 1.59, 2.04) (P for heterogeneity < 0.02 for both). Central adiposity measurements were positively associated with all-cause mortality, as was BMI, but only when those with a BMI (in kg/m(2)) <22.5 were removed from the analyses.
Conclusion: No strong evidence supports replacing BMI in clinical or public health practice with other adiposity measures.