Yangbo Sun  MD, PhD Department of Epidemiology University of Iowa

Normal Weight Women with Central Obesity Still at Increased Risk

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Yangbo Sun  MD, PhD Department of Epidemiology University of Iowa

Dr. Yangbo Sun

Yangbo Sun  MD, PhD
Department of Epidemiology
University of Iowa

Wei Bao, MD, PhD Assistant Professor, Epidemiology College of Public Health University of Iowa

Dr. Wei Bao

Wei Bao, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Epidemiology
College of Public Health,
University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA 52242

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Obesity has become a serious health problem in the United States. Body mass index (BMI) which is calculated as weight (kg)/height (m)2, is the standard measure used to define obesity in clinical and public health guidelines. However, BMI does not distinguish body shape or body fat distribution. Meanwhile central obesity, characterized by relatively high abdominal fat distribution, has been associated with higher risk of mortality, independent of BMI. So for example, two persons with the same BMI of 24 which is considered as “normal weight”, might have different abdominal fat distribution, thus they might be facing different risk of developing disease and mortality.

In the most recent obesity management guidelines, measuring central obesity was recommended among people who are either overweight or have class I obesity (BMI 25.0-34.9 kg/m2), but not among people of normal weight. This might send those people with normal weight but with high abdominal fat as well as those public and clinical professionals a wrong message that these people are free of any particular obesity-related risk, while in fact, they are at elevated risk of mortality and might need risk reduction interventions, such as lifestyle modifications and other interventions. So we did this study to evaluate the mortality risk among this neglected group of people.

We found that women with normal weight central obesity were at increased risk of mortality.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Waist circumference should be measured regardless of BMI levels and extra attention should be paid to those with normal weight central obesity in the setting of risk reduction strategies. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Future research is needed to develop and test the effectiveness of interventions to reduce the risk due to excess body fat among people with normal weight central obesity.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: We would like to mention that these results were done among older postmenopausal women, thus our findings may not apply to women at younger age or men. In addition, most participants are non-Hispanic white, and future studies among other racial/ethnic groups are needed.


Sun Y, Liu B, Snetselaar LG, et al. Association of Normal-Weight Central Obesity With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality Among Postmenopausal Women. JAMA Netw Open. Published online July 24, 20192(7):e197337. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.7337

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Last Updated on July 25, 2019 by Marie Benz MD FAAD