Study links body shape, death rate

January 27, 1993|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

MINNEAPOLIS -- Older women with apple-shaped bodies -- where the waist measurement is more than 80 percent of hip measurement -- face a higher overall death rate, say researchers at the University of Minnesota.

The study was published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Earlier studies by university researchers showed those same women -- those with apple rather than pear body shapes -- face a greater risk of developing breast cancer.

The problem is that women with apple shapes have large deposits of fat in their abdominal cavities that eventually cause assorted long-term health problems, said Dr. Aaron Folsom, an associate professor in the university's School of Public Health and chief author of the study.

For instance, a woman whose waist measurement is the same as her hip measurement has a two- to three-fold increase in mortality risk when compared with another woman whose waist measurement is 80 percent or less of her hip measurement, Dr. Folsom said.

Overall size does not appear to be a factor, but rather how the weight is distributed. Women in the study with the highest mortality risks were those who were thin but had apple shapes, he said.

To a large degree, body shape is determined by genetics, but some women can change their waist-to-hip ratio by losing weight, he said.

"Even if [the ratio] can't be modified, it points out those who should modify their other risk factors, such as smoking," Dr. Folsom said.

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