What is the Best Measurement of Abdominal Fat?

Scale with measuring tape Some research suggests that not all fat is created equal. Fat that accumulates around the waist and chest (what’s called abdominal fat, abdominal obesity, or abdominal adiposity) may be more dangerous for long-term health than fat that accumulates around the hips and thighs.

Scientists have long debated about which measure of abdominal fat is the best predictor of health risk: waist size alone, or waist size in comparison to hip size. Some believe that the so-called waist-to-hip ratio is a better indicator of risk, since waist size may naturally vary based on body frame size; someone who has a large frame, for example, would be expected to have a larger waist than someone with a small frame, so measuring the relationship between waist and hips could give a more accurate picture of who is at risk.

Yet one of the largest and longest studies to date that measured waist and waist-to-hip ratio found that they were equally effective at predicting who was at risk of death from heart disease, cancer, or any cause.(1) And that’s good news, because measuring one’s waist is much easier than measuring one’s waist and hip.


1. Zhang C, Rexrode KM, van Dam RM, Li TY, Hu FB. Abdominal Obesity and the Risk of All-Cause, Cardiovascular, and Cancer Mortality. Sixteen Years of Follow-Up in US Women. Circulation. 2008.

Terms of Use

The contents of this website are for educational purposes and are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The Nutrition Source does not recommend or endorse any products.