Yikes: Having a Beer Belly Seriously Ups Risk of Death, New Research Shows

Beer bellies are bad news, a new study shows. According to The New York Times, new research from a national study of over 15,000 adults, found that those who had an abnormally large belly compared to the rest of their body (better known as a beer belly) had significantly higher risks of heart disease and death than those with an even distribution of fat — even if they were of normal weight.

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, measured the waist-to-hip ratio — which gives a more accurate measurement of visceral fat, the dangerous fat one stores around internal organs, than BMI does — of over 15,000 people and followed them for upward of 14 years, on average. In the end, they found that men with a pot-belly shape had an 87 percent higher risk of death (!!) than men who had the same BMI but a normal waist-to-hip ratio. And women with beer bellies had a 48 percent higher risk of death than women with normal BMIs and normal belly fat. This association stuck even after they controlled for other things that could lead to death like smoking, history of heart attack or diabetes, and more.

What’s most interesting about this study’s findings is that you can be of normal weight, but if your waist-to-hip ratio is high because you’re storing fat around your middle, your health risks still go up — a lot. As Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, told the Times, “People with normal weight according to BMI can’t be reassured that they don’t have any fat-related health issues.” So the lesson: Don’t let your average weight fool you — it’s all about where you carry it.

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