Normal-weight people with fat bellies have a higher risk of death than the obese, according to data presented Monday in Munich at the European Society of Cardiology conference.

Those with a normal body mass index and "central obesity," as defined by a high waist-to-hip ratio, had the greatest risk of cardiovascular-related death and the highest death risk overall, the researchers said. The risk of cardiovascular death was 2.75 times higher and the risk of death from all causes 2.08 times higher, compared with subjects with normal BMI and a normal waist-to-hip ratio.

"We knew from previous research that central obesity is bad, but what is new in this research is that the distribution of the fat is very important, even in people with a normal weight," said Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, senior author of the study and a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

-- Bloomberg News

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