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Waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio and body mass index as predictors of adipose tissue compartments in men

D.C. Chan, G.F. Watts, P.H.R. Barrett, V. Burke
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/qjmed/hcg069 441-447 First published online: 1 June 2003

Abstract

Background: The accumulation of fat in visceral and posterior subcutaneous adipose tissue compartments is highly correlated with the metabolic abnormalities that contribute to increased risk of diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease.

Aim: To determine which of waist circumference (WC), waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) and body mass index (BMI) was the best predictor of intraperitoneal and posterior subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue mass in men.

Methods: We studied 59 free-living men with a wide range of BMI. WC, WHR and BMI were determined using standard methods. Intraperitoneal, retroperitoneal, anterior subcutaneous and posterior subcutaneous abdominal adipose tissue masses (IPATM, RPATM, ASAATM and PSAATM, respectively) were quantified using magnetic resonance imaging.

Results: In univariate regression analysis, WC, WHR and BMI were all significantly and positively correlated (all p < 0.05) with IPATM, RPATM, ASAATM and PSAATM. To assess the relative strength of these associations, we used non-nested regression models. There was no significant difference between WC and WHR in predicting IPATM and RPATM; WC was a stronger predictor of ASAATM (p < 0.001) and PSAATM (p < 0.001) than WHR; WC was also a stronger predictor of IPATM (p = 0.042) and RPATM (p = 0.045) than BMI, but the relative strengths of WC and BMI in predicting ASSATM and PSAATM did not different significantly (p > 0.05); there was no significant difference between BMI and WHR in predicting IPATM and RPATM (p>0.05), but BMI was a stronger predictor of ASAATM (p = 0.036) and PSAATM (p < 0.001) than WHR.

Discussion: In men WC is the anthropometric index that most uniformly predicts the distribution of adipose tissue among several fat compartments in the abdominal region, there apparently being little value in measuring WHR or BMI.

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