Fat deposited around the center of your body is often the first thing people notice when they become overweight. According to Monash University, the evidence suggests fat deposited on your abdomen increases health risks more than fat deposited on your legs, arms or hips. For this reason, interest has grown in measuring waist and hip circumferences.

Disease risk factors

In discovering what factors increase our risk of disease, particular in the context of obesity, the role of different types of body fat has been clarified. Essentially, your body has two different types of fat: subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat is not necessarily harmful to your health. However, visceral fat can be harmful.

The harmful fat

Visceral fat appears around the main organs in your abdomen, in particular around your liver, pancreas and kidneys. Once thought to be inert, we now recognise that visceral fat produces inflammatory agents, which are not healthy. People who tend to have fat around their abdomen (defined by the ‘apple shape’) have more visceral fat and tend to have a greater risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke. So, the measurement of waist circumference has become a useful and quick indicator of this disease risk.

What is healthy?

Nutritionists have become interested in the ratio of waist circumference to height. Evidence shows that people with a high waist circumference compared to their height have a greater disease risk than people with a lower waist circumference compared to their height. So as a general rule, you want to keep your waist circumference half your height.