Nuffield Health, the UK’s largest health charity, published an article today showing that women with larger waist sizes are at great risk of cancer, including breast cancer. They also have increased chance of infertility.

The data was compiled from nearly 55,000 women taking the Nuffield ‘Health MOT’, a series of tests that takes about an hour and assesses overall fitness and health. Parameters included body mass index (BMI), resting heart rate, cholesterol, aerobic fitness, blood pressure, and sugar levels. Patients also had an opportunity to discuss health issues such as hydration, alcohol consumption, sleep quality and any existing injuries. MOT is the UK abbreviation for the annual safety checks required to keep a vehicle on the road, so the name is a play on that. Patients are given a score from 6-100. Presumably 0 would mean a person was already deceased.

Those chosen for the analysis were the ones who said they aimed to improve their health. 57% had waist lines considered to be in the highest category of risk for future illness, including infertility, breast, womb and ovarian cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The average waistline was almost 5cm larger than the healthy size recommended of 80cm. The women contrasted with the men whose sizes mainly fell within the healthy band.

Fat stored around waistline was seen to cause a variety of complications for women, and was specifically associated with disturbed ovarian function, irregular ovulation cycles and anovulation, all of which hinder fertility, this is seen in other data where 50-60% of women with polycystic ovarian syndrome were found to be abdominally obese. Furthermore, the chances of heart disease, liver disease and type 2 diabetes are all increased by being overweight.

Adding to the fertility concerns was the younger age of women in the group, with 50% being between 26 and 46. Britain seems to be following the United States, with expanding waistlines and warnings of a major future health issue on the brew. The pattern of public awareness is following that of tobacco in the 70s and 80s, but in the meantime, healthcare services are bracing for a tidal wave of obesity related chronic illness that is set to put a major strain on healthcare providers. The situation is highlighted by a recent incidence of a teenager in Wales, UK, that had to be cut out from her house, with the bedroom wall demolished, as she’d become so fat, weighting in at over 400kg, nearly ½ a ton, that she couldn’t exit her parents home normally, and this occurred after she’d already received significant support to lose weight, including an extended trip to a weight loss facility in the US.

The weight problem in the UK doesn’t stop there. More than ½ of all women in the MOT tests had body mass indexes higher than the healthy range of 18-25, and nearly one fifth were considered moderately or morbidly obese. Waist-to-hip ratios have blown out into more of an apple shape at 0.83, where the classic pear shape is considered a more natural and lower health risk.

Dr Davina Deniszczyc, Professional Head of Physicians and Diagnostics at Nuffield Health, shared her thoughts on the matter saying:

“Our Health MOT results provide a fascinating snap shot of some of the health issues facing us as a nation. Whilst waist size may seem like a cosmetic issue, this isn’t about women fitting into their skinny jeans, rather it’s an important indicator of overall health and wellbeing, particularly when taken into account with other health measurements. Experts are increasingly finding central (or abdominal) obesity, measured through waist size, to be a better indicator of obesity than BMI. The results for women highlight a worrying problem as fat being stored around the waist can contribute to significant health issues, such as breast cancer and infertility …

Nuffield Health’s approach is to support people to achieve their health and fitness goals, whether that’s addressing their waist measurement, any particular health concerns or more general lifestyle issues. The Health MOT is a key element of this. Being part of the Health MOT program is proven to help you lose weight, move your BMI into the healthy weight category, and get your blood pressure to a healthy level.”

Other health issues include:

  • Lack of sleep: Averaging only 7.1 hours; in the past 8 hours was considered healthy.
  • Despite expressing a desire to improve their health and fitness, 14% reported that they smoke, rising to 16% in London with nearly 18% (17.7%) of male gym goers in the capital smoking. Smokers in London outnumbered those in the region with the least number of smokers (the Midlands) by 3.7%
  • The Midlands has the highest collective BMI (Body Mass Index), as well as the most people with a BMI of 40+
  • London has the highest percentage of gym goers (56.17%) within the healthy range of BMI (18.5-24.9). This is 10% more than the nearest region – South East – at 46.82%
  • Bristol gym-goers had the healthiest overall Health MOT results, taking into account waist measurement, BMI, sleep, and smoking.

The Nuffield Health prepared the report to better help public awareness and aid people in improving their health, especially when it comes to weight loss and waist size.

Written by Rupert Shepherd