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.


  1. 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.

9 thoughts on “Warning: Your Muffin Top May Kill You

  • September 27, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    hi im samantha i am 16 years old and i wanna know am i at risks

    my waist line is 100cm
    i weigh 61.1
    and my hight is 155

    am i at risks??

  • Pingback: Obesity vs. Overweight, what’s the diff? | Hive Health Media's Blog

  • November 6, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    I was shocked recently when I measured my waist (at the navel) and got a measurement of 38 inches. How bad is that? My hips are 41.

  • August 21, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Urgh this sounds really scary! I’m definatley going to measure my waist in a minute! I always thought that if my weight was within the BMI range for my height then I’d be okay health wise but this is a bit of a shocker. Thought provoking stuff there.

    • August 21, 2010 at 11:28 am

      Harriet, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Waist circumference being associated with mortality independent of BMI is concerning news.

  • Pingback: Abdominal Exercises - Advanced Athletic Abs Workout with La Jolla’s #1 Personal Trainer

  • August 18, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    OMG!It scares me. But maybe its time to help them. I have lots of friends whose tummy mmmmm. . .lol I don’t want you to be ashamed of your body. On the contrary, be proud of what you have accomplished. That gut, that flab shows years of accomplished eating and drinking feats and you should cherish it. You may envy the guys with the rock hard abs and no boobs, but what do you think will happen when the ice age comes? Huh? Yeah, they’re all going to freeze to death when we, you guessed it, will still be sweating.

    • August 19, 2010 at 1:06 pm

      Sam, thanks for your thoughts. It was an interesting study for sure.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *