People who are of a regular weight but have all their fat concentrated in their bellies have a higher risk of cardiovascular death than any other body type, according to Mayo Clinic research presented Monday at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Munich.
The pot-bellied also have a higher risk of death from all other causes, even when factoring in factors such as age, sex, race, smoking, diabetes and hypertension.
"We knew from previous research that central obesity is bad, but what is new in this research is that the distribution of the fat is very important even in people with a normal weight," senior author Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, said in a press release.
"This group has the highest death rate, even higher than those who are considered obese based on body mass index. From a public-health perspective, this is a significant finding."
The study looked at 12,785 Americans over 18 for about 15 years, and found cardiovascular death was 2.75 times higher and the risk of death from all causes was 2.08 times higher for people with a regular weight with a high hip-to-waist ratio.
"The high risk of death may be related to a higher visceral fat accumulation in this group, which is associated with insulin resistance and other risk factors, the limited amount of fat located on the hips and legs, which is fat with presumed protective effects, and to the relatively limited amount of muscle mass," said Dr. Karine Sahakyan, a cardiovascular research fellow at the Mayo Clinic.