Is a 35-inch Waist Really Unhealthy?
The chatter started when plus-size model Ashley Graham appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated's famous swimsuit issue. It intensified when former SI cover girl and supermodel Cheryl Tiegs sounded off about women with larger waistlines – hinting that glamorizing Graham was promoting an unhealthy lifestyle.
But is that waist size really unhealthy? Well … maybe so.
The number 35 gained popularity from a report published in Circulation that used data from the long-running Nurses' Health Study, which followed a group of nearly 45,000 U.S. women over 16 years.
Women in the study who had waists larger than 35 inches had nearly double the risk of dying from heart disease, compared with those whose waists were under 28 inches. What’s more, women in the study who had the largest waist size also had a much higher risk of dying from cancer or any other cause. All of the health risks increased steadily as waist circumference increased.
Too much fat around the waist, which researchers sometimes call "central obesity," is also associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Just the same, researchers stress that waist circumference is one of many measures of health and, similar to body mass index (BMI), and that it can't tell us much on its own.
The average waist size of U.S women ages 20 and over is 37.5 inches, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.