by Henry S. Kahn, Kai McKeever Bullard, Lawrence E. Barker, Giuseppina Imperatore
Adiposity predicts health outcomes, but this relationship could depend on population characteristics and adiposity indicator employed. In a representative sample of 11,437 US adults (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1988–1994, ages 18–64) we estimated associations with all-cause mortality for body mass index (BMI) and four abdominal adiposity indicators (waist circumference [WC], waist-to-height ratio [WHtR], waist-to-hip ratio [WHR], and waist-to-thigh ratio [WTR]). In a fasting subsample we considered the lipid accumulation product (LAP; [WC enlargement*triglycerides]). Methods and Findings
For each adiposity indicator we estimated linear and categorical mortality risks using sex-specific, proportional-hazards models adjusted for age, black ancestry, tobacco exposure, and socioeconomic position. There were 1,081 deaths through 2006. Using linear models we found little difference among indicators (adjusted hazard ratios [aHRs] per SD increase 1.2–1.4 for men, 1.3–1.5 for women). Using categorical models, men in adiposity midrange (quartiles 2+3; compared to quartile 1) were not at significantly increased risk (aHRs<1.1) unless assessed by WTR (aHR 1.4 [95%CI 1.0–1.9]). Women in adiposity midrange, however, tended toward elevated risk (aHRs 1.2–1.5), except for black women assessed by BMI, WC or WHtR (aHRs 0.7–0.8). Men or women in adiposity quartile 4 (compared to midrange) were generally at risk (aHRs>1.1), especially black men assessed by WTR (aHR 1.9 [1.4–2.6]) and black women by LAP (aHR 2.2 [1.4–3.5]). Quartile 4 of WC or WHtR carried no significant risk for diabetic persons (aHRs 0.7–1.1), but elevated risks for those without diabetes (aHRs>1.5). For both sexes, quartile 4 of LAP carried increased risks for tobacco-exposed persons (aHRs>1.6) but not for non-exposed (aHRs<1.0). Conclusions
Predictions of mortality risk associated with top-quartile adiposity vary with the indicator used, sex, ancestry, and other characteristics. Interpretations of adiposity should consider how variation in the physiology and expandability of regional adipose-tissue depots impacts health.