Excess body fat, particularly around the waist, is a major risk factor for premature death among Hispanics

Both general and abdominal obesity were strongly associated with mortality among Mexican adults. Each 5 kg/m2 increase in BMI above 25 kg/m2 was associated with a 30 percent increase in mortality. These findings refute previous research showing that being overweight was not strongly associated with mortality in Hispanic populations. Findings from a prospective study are published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines being overweight as having a BMI of 25 to <30 kg/m2. Previous studies have shown that the higher the BMI, the greater the risk for death in most populations. However, the associations of BMI with mortality may be different in populations with substantially higher mean BMI than those originally studied, such as in Hispanic populations.

Researchers from the Mexican Health Ministry followed more than 115,000 adults aged 35 and older in two Mexico City districts for up to 14 years to assess the causal relevance of body fat to mortality. Mean BMI was 28.0 kg/m2 in men and 29.6 kg/m2 in women. To limit the extent to which associations between baseline adiposity and mortality were distorted by any effects of diabetes or other diseases on the baseline measurements, the researchers’ main analyses looked at deaths occurring more than 5 years after the baseline measurements and excluded participants with an HbA1c level of 7 percent or greater, previously diagnosed with diabetes, or other chronic diseases at recruitment. The researchers found that both general obesity and carrying excess fat around the midsection were major risk factors for premature death, with strengths of association that were similar to those observed in high-income populations. In addition, the waist-to-hip ratio was found to be of substantial additional relevance to mortality, suggesting that central obesity is particularly harmful.

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