Health Glossary
Health Glossary

Central Obesity

Abdominal obesity, also known as central obesity and truncal obesity, is a condition when excessive abdominal fat around the stomach and abdomen has built up to the extent that it is likely to have a negative impact on health. Central obesity is found common in elderly people because body fat is often redistributed to the abdominal region during the ageing process.
Date 2021-07-16
Updated on 2021-07-21
How can I determine my waist-to-hip ratio?What major factors influence Central Obesity?What are the health risks of having central obesity?How to keep a check on your central obesity?

How can I determine my waist-to-hip ratio?

A far simpler method is to determine the waist-to-hip ratio. With your abdomen relaxed, measure your waist at the navel. Next, measure your hips at their widest point, usually at the bony prominences. Finally, divide your waist size by your hip size:

Waist-to-hip ratio
Waist (in inches) / Hips (in inches) = waist-to-hip ratio


Interpret your waist circumference

Low risk37 in and below31.5 in and below
Intermediate risk37.1 – 39.9 in31.6 – 34.9 in
High risk40 in and above35 in and above

What major factors influence Central Obesity?


Immediate cause of obesity is net energy imbalance—the person consumes more usable calories than expenditure. Intake of trans fat from industrial oils has been associated with increased abdominal obesity in men and increased weight and waist circumference in women. Greater meat (processed meat, red meat, & poultry) consumption has also been positively associated with greater weight gain, and specifically abdominal obesity, even when accounting for calories. Consuming a diet rich in unprocessed and minimally processed foods is linked with lower obesity risk and less chronic disease.

Alcohol consumption

Studies show that alcohol consumption is directly associated with waist circumference and with a higher risk of abdominal obesity, especially in men. However, high beer intake (above ∼4 L/wk) appeared to be associated with a higher degree of abdominal obesity specifically, particularly among men.

Other factors

Other environmental factors, such as maternal smoking, also could lead to Obesity. Hypercortisolism, such as in Cushing’s syndrome where there is increased Cortisol levels, also leads to central obesity. Many prescription drugs, such as dexamethasone and other steroids, can also have side effects resulting in central obesity, especially in the presence of elevated insulin levels.

What are the health risks of having central obesity?

Heart disease

Abdominal obesity is associated with a statistically higher risk of heart disease, hypertension, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. With an increase in the waist to hip ratio and overall waist circumference, the risk of death increases as well.


Central obesity is known to predispose individuals to insulin resistance.


Obesity leads to a decrease in volume of breathable air due to reduced chest expansion that is caused both by the weight on the chest itself and the effect of abdominal obesity on flattening the diaphragm muscles which is very important in breathing. It is commonly seen that people who are obese breathe quickly and often, while inhaling small volumes of air. Asthma due to obesity is thus a concerning issue.

Alzheimer’s disease

Based on studies, it is evident that obesity has a strong association with vascular and metabolic disease which could potentially be linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Other health risks

Central Obesity is also associated with Cushing’s syndrome (a condition where the body makes excess Cortisol hormone), Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), glucose intolerance, and knee joint osteoarthritis.

How to keep a check on your central obesity?

A permanent routine of exercise, eating healthily, and, during periods of being overweight, consuming the same number or fewer calories than used will prevent and help fight obesity. A single pound of fat yields approximately 3500 calories of energy (32 000 kJ energy per kilogram of fat), and weight loss is achieved by reducing energy intake, or increasing energy expenditure.

A study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, suggests that combining cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise with resistance training is more effective than cardiovascular training alone in getting rid of abdominal fat. An additional benefit to exercising is that it reduces stress and insulin levels, which reduces the presence of cortisol, a hormone that leads to more belly fat deposits.


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