Opinion

How does your waist measure up?

Imagine if your employer started measuring your waist as a measure of your health.

That’s what’s happening in Japan. As my colleague Norimitsu Onishi explains in today’s Times, a Japanese law that came into effect two months ago requires companies and local governments to measure the waistlines of Japanese adults. The government limits are 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women. Those who exceed the standard and also have another weight-related health concern are given “dieting guidance” to drop weight. (To read the full story, click here.)

While the Japanese plan seems onerous, it’s not without scientific basis. Studies clearly show a person’s health risks increase as waist size grows.

In March, an analysis in The Journal of Clinical Epidemiology showed that body mass index is the ‘’poorest’’ indicator of cardiovascular health, and that waist size is a much better way to determine, for both sexes, who is at a higher risk for hypertension, diabetes and elevated cholesterol.

Studies suggest that health risks begin to increase when a woman’s waist reaches 31.5 inches, and her risk jumps substantially once her waist expands to 35 inches or more. For a man, risk starts to climb at 37 inches, but it becomes a bigger worry once his waist reaches or exceeds 40 inches.

Last month, The International Journal of Obesity suggested that, particularly for young people, the waist-to-height ratio might be a better indicator of overall health risks. Put simply, your waist should be less than half your height.

To read more about health and waist size, click here. And click here to check out whether your body shape is an apple or a pear.

Source: The New York Times