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Waist and Hip Measurements
There are a number of factors that can help you estimate your risk for health problems like heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes. I have discussed a number of these in this column and there is information throughout the Dr. Gourmet site in The health of it all… sidebars.

What does Waist to Hip ratio have to do with Body Mass Index?
I was reading your article about BMI and WHR today. I didn't understand what one had to do with the other. What is a good Waist to Hip Ratio and what is a bad one?

Watch Your Waist - Not Just Your Weight
When we talk about obesity it seems like we're most often talking about Body Mass Index (BMI). Certainly I've been doing a lot of talking and writing about it. There's another tool that doctors use to assess weight that I've talked about, just not quite as much: Waist-to-Hip Ratio (WHR).


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Slim Your Waist with Whole Grains and Legumes

BeansI've said for years that the most important factor in weight loss is the number of calories you eat versus the number of calories you burn. That said, we also know that some foods are more filling and satisfying than others, which is just one explanation for why those who eat more whole grains tend to gain less weight over the years. Further, those who eat more legumes seem to have a lower Waist to Hip Ratio (WHR).

But would eating more whole grains and legumes actually help you lose weight? A group of researchers in the United Kingdom and New Zealand designed a study to shed some light on the subject (J Am Coll Nutr 2010:29(4): 365-372).

They recruited 108 men and women who had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 28 (30 is clinically obese) who did not have diabetes, heart disease or cancer to take part in an 18-month weight loss program. Each person was randomly assigned to one of two diets: the first, a control diet, included recommendations for 6 servings of breads and cereals per day as part of a balanced diet. The study group followed the same balanced diet, except that they were specifically instructed to consume only whole grain breads and cereals, and to substitute 2 servings of legumes in place of two of the recommended servings of breads and cereals.

For the first six months of the program, the participants met with a dietitian every 2 weeks, provided regular dietary records, and were supplied with key foods for their assigned diet. For the following 12 months the participants were contacted monthly.

After six months both groups had lost about the same amount of weight and their average WHR and BMI had decreased about the same amount. After 18 months both groups had again lost about the same amount of weight, but those eating the diet higher in legumes had decreased their waist circumference by an average of almost 3 centimeters (about an inch and a half) - twice as much as the control group.

What this means for you

This research reinforces the earlier research showing that eating more legumes and whole grains can help you reduce your Waist to Hip Ratio. While the researchers were disappointed to find that those following the higher legume diet did not lose more weight than those on the control diet, other recent studies suggest that WHR might actually have more effect on your health than your Body Mass Index. In any event, whole grains, beans and other legumes are low in fat, delicious, and help fill you up. Choose whole wheat pasta, whole grain bread and brown rice to get more whole grains in your diet, and add more legumes to your diet with these recipes:

Red Beans and Rice
Sea Bass with White Beans and Tomato Vinaigrette
Split Pea Soup
Three Bean Salad
White Chili

First posted: December 15, 2010