Recent studies have indicated that it isn’t how much fat you have that contributes to weight-related health problems as it is where fat is stored, something which has been shown to be genetically pre-determined – for more on this, see here. As a result, some researchers are calling for a dismissal of those faulty BMI measurements and are encouraging the use of waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) instead to determined weight-related health risks:
According to researchers, the [WHR] danger point was more than 0.85 for women and more than 0.9 for men. This is because fat stored around the waist is more likely to affect lipids in the blood and clog up arteries than fat stored around the thighs and hips.
Dr. Arya Sharma, an obesity expert at Hamilton who took part in the research, said BMI was inappropriate because it did not take into account muscle — which is heavier than fat — and it did not show where fat was distributed.
“All that you need to define someone’s risk of heart attacks is to measure their waist and divide it by their hips, and if that is more than 0.85 for a woman and more than 0.9 for a man you are in a higher risk group and it does not matter what your BMI is,” Dr. Sharma said.
So, what’s my point, you may be asking. Kate Harding’s BMI Project has attracted the attention of a national women’s magazine who wants to feature body-positive materials in their publication. While these kinds of magazines usually promote dieting, the fact that they are open to and actively seeking out body-positive materials is awesome and I plan on participating.
The magazine requests submitters give their height, weight, BMI and WHR, amongst other information. I had never calculated my WHR before, so I whipped out my handy dandy measuring tape and plugged in my numbers. My WHR measures 0.787 – which, according to obesity researchers referenced above and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, places me well within a healthy range.
Here’s where it gets interesting. I did a google search for WHR ratio online calculators and just went down the list to see how I ranked.
According to BMI-Calculator.net:
You have a Waist to Hip Ratio of 0.79 You may want to try the south beach diet.
The South Beach Diet link, of course, takes you to a special offer page on the BMI-Calculator website, where they no doubt get financial commission off of people who click on the link or sign up for the plan.
According to the University of Maryland Medical System:
Your Waist to Hip Ratio is 0.78 and appears to be within a healthy range.
No advertisements listed on the site.
According to Weight Loss Center:
Your Waist-Hip Ratio is: 0.79. For women : an ideal figure is 0.72 or less. Studies show that women have greatly increased chance of getting coronary disease and related health problems if their Waist-Hip ratio exceeds 0.72.
Notice the arbitrary change in the ratio here to 0.72 from the commonly accepted 0.8 recommended on most sites, and the 0.85 ratio recommended by researchers in the article above. The site lists a huge graphic advertisement to “Lose 20 pounds in three weeks!” with phentermine pills, as well as commercial text links to purchase more than 10 commercial diet plans, diet guides and books, and more than 11 unproven and untested diet pills and supplements.
According to University Community Health (a collaboration of Tampa area hospitals):
Your waist-to-hip (WHR) ratio is: 0.79
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
For men, a ratio of .90 or less is considered safe.
For women, a ratio of .80 or less is considered safe.
No advertisements listed on the site.
According to WeightLossTips:
Your WHR is:0.79.
In women, the ideal Waist : Hip Ratio is around or below 0.7, and in men it is around or below 0.9. In addition to being less at risk of the complications of obesity, women in the ideal Waist : Hip Ratio range are less susceptible to diabetes and ovarian cancer, and men are more fertile and are less susceptible to prostate and testicular cancer.
Notice the ratio for men at 0.9 remains constant, yet here the ratio for women is lowered from 0.8 (and even the 0.88 in the site below) to 0.7. I counted at least 10 advertisements for various diets and weight loss programs.
According to Healthline:
Your Waist-to-Hip Ratio: 0.79. According to the American Heart Association, women with a waist-to-hip ratio of less than 0.88 and men with a ratio of less than 0.95 have a decreased risk for obesity-related health problems.
According to FreeDieting:
Your waist to hip ratio is 0.8. Women with waist-to-hip ratios of more than 0.8 are at increased health risk because of their fat distribution.
The site lists at least 15 ads for commercial diet plans, as well as commercial links to oodles of diet software tools, workout plans, fitness programs and a shopping guide. Perhaps this is why they raised my ratio from 0.787 to 0.8 when most sites use the tenth of a percentage measurement.
According to University of Pennsylvania Health System:
Based on the information you provided, your waist-hip ratio is 0.78. Good for you! Your current waist-hip ratio is not associated with significantly increased health risks. You can continue to maintain a healthy waist-hip ratio with good eating and exercise habits.
I could go on and on, but I hope you notice the trend here. In each of the sites with no advertising for diet and weight loss products, my WHR and WHR standards are listed accurately, with standards reflecting those set forth by a government agency. On those sites with diet and weight loss advertisements, my WHR is either dramatically rounded up to fall within an unhealthy range, and/or erroneous and misleading standards are listed for what constitutes a healthy range for WHR, so that my perfectly healthy WHR suddenly becomes unhealthy and in need of one of the numerous diet products conveniently featured on their sites.
It’s like I posted yesterday – can we really trust those who stand to financially profit from promoting obesity as unhealthy and in seeing more people classified as obese?