Men and women who are not overweight but store most of their fat around their waist are at greater risk of heart disease or stroke than the clinically obese.
This could be because those who are overweight or obese have more weight on their thighs and hips which helps offset the problem, researchers said.
Doctors from the Mayo Clinic in the United States examined the health records of 12,785 people with an average age of 44, over a 14-year period.
They recorded patients’ body mass index (BMI) – their ratio of weight relative to height – as well as their waist-to-hip ratio, which signifies how much of their weight they store on their belly.
During the study, 2,562 of the patients died, including 1,138 as a result of a cardiovascular problem such as heart disease or stroke. The findings suggest that people with a normal BMI but a high waist-to-hip ratio were 2.75 times more likely to die from a cardiovascular condition than people who were normal on both scales. Even people who were clinically obese and had a high proportion of fat stored around their middle had only 2.34 times the risk of dying from heart disease or stroke compared with the healthiest group.