Warning: Your Muffin Top May Kill You
Though the attention-grabbing headline might have left you somewhat confused if you’ve never previously been apprised of what the definition of a muffin top is, the above photo does provide an explanation. Yes, a muffin top is a somewhat pejorative term which describes the unsightly effect of abdominal fat bulging over pants. Typically, the effect is accentuated when people where pants that are too small in the waist.
If you’re starting to notice your pants feeling a little tighter around the waist, new research suggests that even if your weight is within a normal range for your height, you could be increasing your risk of mortality. Naturally, most of us either assume or start to make excuses when our pants stop fitting very well. It had to be something that happened with the dryer shrinking your clothes, right? I know, I’ve been there too myself.
Obesity itself has been linked to numerous health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, as well as certain types of cancer. It also has an established association with a higher mortality rate. Traditionally, studies have used body mass index as a clinical measure of obesity. Researchers at the American Cancer Society in Atlanta published the results of a large U.S. cohort study regarding the connection between actual waist circumferences and all-cause mortality (Jacobs et al, 2010).
Muffin Top Health Consequences
Losing weight can be a challenge, but if you’re looking to find some added motivation, continue reading… This particular study included 48,500 men and 56,343 women who were 50 years of age or older. A total of 9315 men and 5332 women died between 1997 and the end of follow-up in 2006.
Study Results: Waist Circumference and Mortality:
- Results indicate that having a waist circumference >120 cm (47.2 inches) is associated with approximately a 2x greater risk of mortality than having one <90 cm (35.4 inces) for men.
- For a waist circumference > 110 cm (43.3 inches) there’s a 2.35 x greater risk of mortality compared to one < 75 cm (29.5 inches) for women.
*These results are AFTER adjusting for differences in BMI and other factors.
Quick grab your tape measure.
From the study authors:
“In our study, waist circumference (WC) was positively associated with risk of mortality among individuals within all categories of BMI examined (normal, overweight, and obese). The relative risks (RRs) associated with a 10-cm increase in WC ranged from approximately 15% to 25% within various categories of BMI, with the strongest association observed among women in the normal BMI category.”
What Does this Mean?
Even if your weight is normal by definition, you can still be at a greater risk of dying by virtue of having a large waist circumference or a muffin top.
What Were the Causes of Death Associated with Having a Large Waist?
The study authors found that the strongest associations were associated with respiratory disease, followed by cardiovascular disease and then cancer.
- Jacobs EJ, Newton CC, Wang Y, Patel AV, McCullough ML, Campbell PT, Thun MJ, Gapstur SM. Waist Circumference and All-Cause Mortality in a Large US Cohort. Arch Intern Med. 2010 Aug 9;170(15):1293-301.