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What is central obesity? 

Central obesity refers to the excess fat stored around the abdominal region including around the vital organs such as heart and liver. Waist circumference is a measurement of central obesity. 

How is central obesity measured? 

The most common way of measuring central obesity is to measure waist circumference. This measurement helps evaluate the amount of fat surrounding vital organs. When there is a significant amount of fat surrounding the vital organs, it is metabolically straining. 

Risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome all increase when the waist circumference exceeds 40 inches (102 cm) in males and 35 inches (88 cm) in females. Waist circumference is a better indicator of insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease risk than body mass index (BMI). 

Is waist circumference more accurate than body mass index (BMI)?  

Waist circumference is a better predictor of disease risk than body mass index (BMI). This is because BMI does not distinguish between lean tissue (muscle) and adipose tissue (fat) or indicate how it is distributed. BMI only assesses height to weight ratio. Waist circumference on the other hand provides information about how much fat is centrally located, which is where all the vital organs are. 

How do you lose central obesity? 

While there is no way to specifically target weight loss, there are some lifestyle changes you can make that will result in overall weight loss. Even a weight loss of just 5% of total body weight can result in better metabolic health, such as improved blood sugars, cholesterol, and blood pressure. Making small changes everyday can lead to big changes overall. Losing weight requires you to be in a negative energy balance. Meaning, you’re burning more calories than you are consuming. To create this negative energy balance, add physical activity to your daily routine. Adding something as simple as a 15 minute walk at lunch or after dinner is a good start. 

Being conscious of food choices is also helpful in losing weight. Aim to eat consistent, small meals throughout the day. Make at least half of your plate full of vegetables which are nutrient-dense and naturally lower in calories. Taking these small steps will lead to healthy weight loss overtime. 

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Photo of Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson

Medically reviewed by:

Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson, Ph.D., RD

Kristin is an RDN who also earned her Ph.D. in Nutrition from Arizona State University with an emphasis on insulin resistance, lipid metabolism disorders, and obesity. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at Mayo Clinic where she focused on nutrition-related proteomic and metabolic research. Her interests include understanding the exact mechanism of action of various genetic variations underlying individual predispositions to nutrition-related health outcomes. Her goal is to help all individuals prevent chronic diseases and achieve long, healthy lives through eating well.

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