Fresh research into the nation’s waistlines has identified that more than half of UK women have waists that are over the recommended healthy size. Health charity Nuffield Health, who conducted the research, say that overweight women face an increased risk of developing a variety of cancers including breast cancer, infertility, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
The research, based on health analysis of over 54,000 individuals seeking to actively improve their health, found that 57% of women had waist sizes over the NHS recommended limit of 80cm. The average female waist measurement was 84.9cm.
In addition to this, 52.5% of the women who took part in the research had BMI’s over the defined healthy range of 18-25.
What Waist Size Means
It is well known that being overweight brings increased risk of a number of health conditions and waistline size is a common measurement by health professionals in determining both the need for weight management, the risk of coronary conditions and of central fat distribution.
In women, being overweight also brings additional risks such as increased risk of breast cancer and also infertility. Fat stored around the waistline can affect ovarian function, leading to irregular ovulation cycles and anovulation, whereby the ovaries do not release an oocyte, causing ovulation not to take place.
Of the women who participated in the study, 50% were between the ages of 26 and 46, increasing concerns over the impact of the nation’s growing waistline on fertility.
The findings of the research also indicate that the issue of expanding waistlines is prevalent throughout the UK, with average female waist sizes in all regions of England and Scotland falling into the at risk category, making this a nationwide health concern.
Apples and Pears
While it was long held that the average UK woman had a pear shaped figure, the research also suggests that this is no longer true. The data showed that the average waist to hip ratio for the 30,000+ women across the UK who took part in the research was 0.83, meaning the waist size was over 80% of hip circumference. Anything over 0.8 would imply a much rounder midriff and narrower hips, making for a more apple shaped figure.
However, women who fall into this group, but who want to take action to improve their health and their waistline can find consolation in the knowledge that, through dieting and exercise, excess fat stored around the waist is often the first to go.
The research also looked at men’s health in a similar manner and found that, when it comes to average waist size and BMI, UK men are doing much better than women. The average waist size from the men assessed was 92.7 cm, 1.3 cm under the NHS recommended healthy limit.
However, it is possible that, since the research was conducted on individuals looking to improve their health, the findings say more about motivations and intent of people looking to increase their physical activity and reduce their food intake.
The contrasting findings between both genders suggest that there are very different factors driving men to be exercise and diet to those which motivate women. The research would suggest that men who aim to adopt a more healthy lifestyle do so from a better, healthier starting point, adopting a more preventative mentality to becoming overweight.
UK women, by contrast, appear to be more reactionary in their approach to health, waiting until weight has become a significant issue before seeking to alter their lifestyle to tackle the problem.
Regardless, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that waistlines are growing globally and the sooner action is taken to buck this trend, the better.