It's the tummy, dummy

Beer belly boosts threat of heart attack

Nov 4, 2005 - A beer belly increases the risk of a heart attack - even if the rest of the body is skinny, according to a report out of Canada.


The traditional measure for obesity - a rough estimate of body fat, based on height and weight, called the body mass index - is misleading and obsolete, and should be replaced with a new calculation called the waist-to-hip ratio, the new study concludes.

The research, published in the medical journal The Lancet and based on a study that included 27,000 people in 52 countries, adds more weight to the growing body of evidence that fat around the abdomen is the most damaging to a person's health. Further, it suggests that big hips reduce the risk of disease - or heart disease at the very least - because larger hips tend to suggest more muscle mass.

Currently, the most popular method of determining obesity is calculating BMI - dividing a person's weight by their height.

Fat deposited on the stomach or abdomen - the classic beer gut - is more dangerous than extra pounds on the thighs because the fat cells around the waist pump out chemicals that can damage the insulin system, raising the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

"A larger waist is bad for you, larger hips are good for you," said Salim Yusuf, who led the story. "What matters is where your fat is and how big your muscles are."