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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Is waist circumference a better predictor of blood pressure, insulin resistance and blood lipids than body mass index in young Chilean adults?

Macarena Lara1*, Patricia Bustos2, Hugo Amigo2, Claudio Silva3 and Roberto J Rona4

Author Affiliations

1 PhD Programme of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Chile, Independencia, 1027, Santiago, Chile

2 Department of Nutrition, Faculty of Medicine, University of Chile, Independencia, 1027, Santiago, Chile

3 School of Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, University of Chile, Santiago, Chile

4 Department of Psychological Medicine, King’s College, London, UK

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:638  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-638

Published: 10 August 2012



It has been reported that waist circumference (WC) is a better predictor of cardiovascular risk factors than body mass index (BMI), although the findings have not been consistent. The aim of this study was to assess which measurement, BMI or WC, is more strongly associated with blood pressure, homeostatic model assessment (HOMA) and blood lipids in young Chilean adults.


999 subjects aged 22 to 28 years were randomly selected from a registry of individuals born between 1974 and 1978 at the Hospital of Limache, Chile. Weight, height, WC, blood pressure, HOMA and lipoproteins were assessed in a cross-sectional study.


In multivariable regressions BMI and WC were associated with blood pressure, HOMA and lipoproteins at similar level of explained variation (R2 between 1.6 % for Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL) and 15.6 %, the highest for HOMA and triglycerides) and similarly OR in standardised logistic regressions between 1.1 (95 % CI: 0.9 and 1.4) for LDL and 2.9 (95 % CI: 2.4 and 3.4) for elevated HOMA. When both WC and BMI were included in the model collinearity was high and only for HOMA was there a small independent contribution of each index (R2 = 1 %); for other outcomes the pattern was inconsistent.


The strength of the associations of WC and BMI for any cardiovascular risk factors was similar, but highest for HOMA and triglycerides. WC and BMI are equally useful for monitoring the consequences of obesity in young adults.

Waist circumference; body mass index; cardiovascular risk factors; young adults