Rochester, Minnesota - The August issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter shares a compelling reason to keep waistlines trim ― research shows that greater waistline circumference is linked to shorter life expectancy.

The new research, led by Mayo Clinic, showed this association even for people at a healthy weight for their height as measured by body mass index (BMI). The study analyzed data from 11 different studies that included health measurements of more than 600,000 people from around the world. Waist circumference was measured 1 inch above the navel. Participants were followed for a median of nine years.

Study findings included:

  • Men with a waist circumference of 43 inches or greater had a 50 percent higher risk of death over the course of the study than did men with waists of less than 35 inches. This translated to about a three-year lower life expectancy after age 40.
  • Women with a waist circumference of 37 inches or greater had an 80 percent higher risk of death over the course of the study than did women with waists of less than 27 inches. This translated to about a five-year lower life expectancy after age 40.
  • Each 2-inch increment in waist circumference was associated with a 7 percent increase in the risk of death in men and a 9 percent increase in risk of death in women. This held true for people with a BMI that was normal, overweight or obese.

Researchers also found that modest or small decreases in waist circumference due to improved diet or physical activity could have important impacts in reducing health risks, even if total body weight didn’t change much.