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Singaporean Chinese Women: Abdominal obesity is worse for cardiovascular health than general obesity

The incidence of obesity has been steadily rising in developed and developing countries, affecting 13% of the global adult population. Obesity is strongly associated with health complications and diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and other cardiovascular diseases1. In one recent study conducted by Goh and Hart with 1,326 Singaporean Chinese women aged 29 to 71, the researchers found that only abdominal obesity (categorized by percent abdominal fat >21.8%) was associated with worse metabolic syndrome* such as higher levels of glucose and insulin in comparison to non-obese women2, 3. The research also suggested that general obesity (categorized by percent total body fat ≥ 35%) does not adversely affect the body2. Nonetheless, maintaining a slimmer waistline and lower BMI** reduces the risk of developing obesity-related diseases such as heart attack and stroke4.


* Metabolic syndrome = five risk factors that increase risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke: large waistline, high triglyceride level, low HDL cholesterol level, high blood pressure, and high fasting blood sugar

**BMI = Body Mass Index, calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of the height in meters


1World Health Organization. (2018, February 16). Obesity and overweight. Retrieved February 4, 2019, from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight

2Goh, V. H. H., & Hart, W. G. (2018). Excess fat in the abdomen but not general obesity is associated with poorer metabolic and cardiovascular health in premenopausal and postmenopausal Asian women. Maturitas, 107, 33-38.

3National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (n.d.). Metabolic Syndrome. Retrieved February 4, 2019, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/metabolic-syndrome

4Jarolimova, J., Tagoni, J., & Stern, T. A. (2013). Obesity: its epidemiology, comorbidities, and management. The primary care companion for CNS disorders, 15(5), PCC.12f01475.

About Brian Leung

Tufts University, BS in Biology and Community Health

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