Waist circumference provides essential information about BMI

Doctors must incorporate measurement as standard in practice to combat obesity

02/04/2020 | 5:00 PM

A committee of international experts, including VU professor of Nutrition Jaap Seidell proposes that measurements of waist circumference afford practitioners with an important opportunity  to improve the management and health of patients. The research is published in Nature Reviews Endocrinology paper.

Despite decades of unequivocal evidence that waist circumference provides both independent and additive information to BMI for predicting morbidity and risk of death, this measurement is not routinely obtained in clinical practice. 

The researchers argue that BMI alone is not sufficient to properly assess or manage the cardiometabolic risk associated with increased adiposity in adults and provide a thorough review of the evidence that will empower health practitioners and professional societies to routinely include waist circumference in the evaluation and management of patients who are overweight or obese. 

Also they recommend that decreases in waist circumference are a critically important treatment target for reducing adverse health risks for both men and women. Moreover, they describe evidence that clinically relevant reductions in waist circumference can be achieved by routine, moderate- intensity exercise and/or dietary interventions. 

The researchers identify gaps in the knowledge, including the refinement of waist circumference threshold values for  a given BMI category , to optimize obesity risk stratification across age, sex and ethnicity. They recommend that health professionals are trained to properly perform this simple measurement and consider it as an important ‘vital sign’ in clinical practice.