• Measurement;
  • morbidity;
  • mortality;
  • waist circumference


There is currently no consensus regarding the optimal protocol for measurement of waist circumference (WC), and no scientific rationale is provided for any of the WC protocols recommended by leading health authorities. A panel of experts conducted a systematic review of 120 studies (236 samples) to determine whether measurement protocol influenced the relationship of WC with morbidity of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes and with mortality from all causes and from CVD. Statistically significant associations with WC were reported for 65% (152) of the samples across all outcomes combined. Common WC protocols performed measurement at the minimal waist (33%), midpoint (26%) and umbilicus (27%). Non-significant associations were reported for 27% (64) of the samples. Most of these protocols measured WC at the midpoint (36%), umbilicus (28%) or minimal waist (25%). Significant associations were observed for 17 of the remaining 20 samples, but these were not significant when adjustment was made for covariates. For these samples, the most common WC protocols were the midpoint (35%) and umbilicus (30%). Similar patterns of association between the outcomes and all WC protocols were observed across sample size, sex, age, race and ethnicity. Our findings suggest that WC measurement protocol has no substantial influence on the association between WC, all-cause and CVD mortality, CVD and diabetes.