Calculations of A Body Shape Index can help predict those at risk of dying

A Body Shape Index: The Newest Risk Factor

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.


You don’t need a calculator to tell if you are fat. Standing naked in front of a full length mirror will do. But you do need a calculator to figure out if your body size and shape put you at risk of premature death. The new measurement, called A Body Shape Index (ABSI), requires a square root, a cube-root and some long division to predict who has a “hazardous body shape.”

And you thought stepping on the bathroom scale was scary!

This new index was developed by researchers at The City College of New York. They wanted to overcome weaknesses in the other measurements now used by health professionals to determine who, among the rapidly growing overweight and obese population, is most likely to suffer complications from their fatness. This latest tool will allow them to identify those most likely to die from their excess weight.

What Measurements Have We Used?

The widely used calculation of Body Mass Index(BMI) is based solely on height and weight. It cannot account for fat distribution or muscle mass, which can be quite different between any two people of the same height, especially a man and woman who are both 5′ 10″. It’s better at assessing obesity in populations, not individuals.

Waist circumference does a good job of identifying fat deposits around the visceral organs, but it cannot tell how tall or well-proportioned you are. A waist circumference of 32 inches may be fine for a very tall woman, but not a very short one.

What’s Different About A Body Shape Index?

ABSI is based on both BMI and waist circumference. When used to follow more than 14,000 Americans adults over five years it was better than BMI or waist circumference in predicting who would die of any cause during that time period among men, women, and blacks, but not Mexicans. It was also a reliable way to predict who was more likely to die when other factors that significantly increase your risk, such as cigarette smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes status, were considered.

Losing weight by any means will lower your BMI, and shrinking or redistributing fat deposits will give you a smaller waist circumference. Those steps will also decrease your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. What we don’t know yet is what changes are needed in the ABSI to delay dying.

While waiting for further research on ABSI, you can always take a look in a full length mirror after your next shower. It’s another good way to see if you have any body shape issues to address.

For more updates on obesity research:

Posted in Calories, Diet and Disease, Eating Habits, HEALTH GOES STRONG, Nutrition News, Obesity, Weight Control and tagged , , , .

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