Comparison of the associations of body mass index and measures of central adiposity and fat mass with coronary heart disease, diabetes, and all-cause mortality: a study using data from 4 UK cohorts

Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Mar;91(3):547-56. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.28757. Epub 2010 Jan 20.


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.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue*
  • Adiposity*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Height
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Cause of Death
  • Coronary Disease / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Electric Impedance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity* / mortality
  • Obesity, Abdominal* / mortality
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Skinfold Thickness
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Waist Circumference
  • Waist-Hip Ratio