We often hear that the number on the scale isn't always the most accurate determinant of one's health, but can your body mass index (BMI) be an even better indicator? Turns out, if you're trying to lose weight, the answer is no. In fact, you should be looking at an entirely different number while trying to achieve your weight-loss goals.
According to an April 2017 study, your hip-to-waist ratio is the most important aspect to consider when you're looking to shed some extra pounds.
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To arrive at this conclusion, researchers from the United Kingdom and Australia analyzed data on the body composition and mortality of more than 42,000 men and women over the span of 10 years. Researchers discovered that people with "normal" BMIs (between 18.5 and 25) but with high hip-to-waist ratios (anything above 0.85 for women or 0.9 for men) were more likely to die from any cause during the course of the study. Obese people, who had both high BMIs (of 30 or higher) and high hip-to-waist ratios, also had higher mortality rates compared to normal-waisted individuals.
But then there came an interesting catch: People who had high BMIs but had normal hip-to-waist ratios did not have an increased chance of death, although they were overweight. Thus, these findings may suggest that your hip-to-waist ratio (aka your "central obesity" level) is more important in determining overall health than BMI.
Still, it's important to acknowledge that the study did have some limitations. Participants' BMIs and hip-to-waist ratios were only measured once during the 10-year study, which researchers assert could have skewed the results. Nevertheless, the data supports previous studies that have found links between excess belly fat and a higher chance of death.
All in all, this latest study is a strong indicator that we should be checking the plumpness of our waistlines—because it could likely be where weight loss counts the most.