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Is that Fat on Your Tummy Making You Sick?

Which one is worse for health – excess fat on the bottom, hips or waist? If you said waist, you are right. Having a ‘beer gut’, ‘pot belly’ or ‘middle-aged spread’ means you’re at risk of serious chronic disease. In fact experts say the size of your waist and your waist-to-hip ratio could be more important than your Body Mass Index (BMI) to find your risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Smoking, stress, drinking too much alcohol and other factors increase the risk of having too much abdominal fat; but there is hope – leading a healthy lifestyle greatly reduces the risk. Read on to find out more.

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What is Body Mass Index (BMI)?

If you’re using the CalorieKing Australia website to monitor your weight loss, you probably would have noticed your BMI. BMI sounds like a funky rock band, but it’s actually an indication of whether a person is underweight, in the normal weight range, overweight or obese. BMI is more accurate than just weighing yourself on an ordinary set of scales because the scales don’t take into account your height.

To calculate your BMI, divide your weight (in kilograms) by your height in metres squared. For example, if your body weight is 90 kilograms and you are 1.65 metres tall, you would calculate your BMI as follows: 90 divided by (1.65 x 1.65) = 90/2.72 = 33.06. This is considered obese.

Below is the BMI scale outlined by the World Health Organization.




Below 18.50

Normal range

18.50 – 24.99


25.00 – 29.99


30 and over

Does the BMI Have Limitations?

Yes, the BMI has limitations. Firstly, it is meant for people 18 years of age and over. It might not be suitable for all nationalities, due to variations in body proportions in different races. Asians tend to have much smaller body fames than Maoris from New Zealand, for example.

BMI does not indicate where fat is located on the body. As mentioned above, excess fat around the waist is unhealthier than too much weight on the hips or bottom.

BMI doesn’t take into account the amount of muscle and fat a person has. This can mean the BMI can incorrectly say that people with a lot of muscle mass, and low amounts of fat, are overweight or obese. Body builders and lean, muscular athletes can fall into this category.

How Much Fat on the Waist is Too Much?

In men, a waistline over 94 cms increases the risk of stroke, diabetes and heart disease. For women it’s 80 cms or more. The risk is even greater over 102 cm, in men, and 88 cm in women. For Asians and Indians the cut-offs are 10 cm lower.

How can you measure your waistline? Breathe out, then run a tape measure around your waist at the narrowest point between the ribs and hips. Often this is just above the belly button.

What is the Waist-to-Hip-Ratio (WHR)? Is it More Accurate Than Measuring the Waist?

Some research has found that the WHR is more accurate than measuring the waistline. A small increase in WHR increases the risk of heart disease, even if a person’s BMI is in the healthy weight range.

You get the WHR by dividing your waist circumference by your hip circumference. Measure your hips by running a tape measure around the widest point of your hips. The ideal WHR is 0.9 or less for men, and 0.8 or less for women.

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Next: What Health Problems Can Too Much Fat Around the Waist Cause?

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