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U.S. Waistlines Keep Growing, With Women Leading the Way

Average is nearly 39 inches, CDC researchers find

TUESDAY, Sept. 16, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Americans' average waist size continues to inch up, and women's waistlines are widening faster than men's, according to new government research published in the Sept. 17 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Earl Ford, M.D., M.P.H., a medical officer at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and colleagues used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey on nearly 33,000 men and women ages 20 and older.

The average waist size grew more than an inch -- from 37.6 inches to 38.8 inches -- between 1999 and 2012. Based on their waist circumference, 54 percent of Americans were abdominally obese in 2012, up from 46 percent 13 years earlier. While men's waists increased less than an inch -- about 0.8 of an inch on average -- women's midriffs grew about twice that, or 1.5 inches.

Waist circumference is a simple tool that reflects the amount of total body fat and intra-abdominal body fat. Like body mass index, it is used to predict heart disease risk. Waistlines larger than 35 inches for women and more than 40 inches for men are considered abdominal obesity, a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes.

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