You are not alone if you think that you constantly need to replace your wardrobe because of your widening waistline. Findings of a new research conducted by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that the belt size of Americans has continued to expand with women gaining more waistline inches than men.
For the study published in the journal JAMA on Sept. 17, Earl Ford and his colleagues from the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for the period 1999-2000 to 2011-2012 and which involved nearly 33,000 men and non-pregnant women who were at least 20 years old.
The researchers found that between 1999 and 2000, the waistlines of American adults were 37.6 inches on average but by 2011 and 2012, this has increased to about 38.8 inches, or 1.2 inch wider compared to about a decade ago. Women's waistline became wider than that of men during the study period. The waist circumference of men increased by 0.8 inches but the women's waistline increased nearly twice at 1.5 inches.
"Waists are still expanding in the U.S., and particularly so among women," Ford said adding that the main strategy to lose those extra inches on the waist is to lose weight.
Ford said it is surprising that the waistline of Americans is still increasing given that the prevalence of obesity appeared to have reached a plateau. Earlier studies suggest no change in the Body Mass Index (BMI), the standard used to measure overall obesity, between 2003-2004 and 2011-2012 albeit over a third of the adults in the U.S. are still considered to be obese.
"The increase is a concern. There's no question about that," said obesity expert William Dietz, from the George Washington University. "What it suggests is that even though the obesity rate may be stable, fat distribution may be changing, which would mean that we shouldn't be complacent about the plateau."
Although it isn't yet clear why waistlines expand faster than the BMI, some researchers suggest that factors ranging from lack of sleep to side effects of medications may have contributed to extra fat collecting around the midsection. Others also think that this may have something to do with pesticides, the chemical BPA found in plastic products and other substances that mimic the hormone that could impact a person's weight albeit all these are not yet proven and still speculative.